Saturday, November 28, 2009

Embedded report puts happy face on mission

An interesting report to note from the field in Afghanistan: "Canadians mentor 'fiercest' troops." Read through, it's notably enthusiastic:
Capt. Gord Barnes is in his glory, dancing in a circle of clapping Afghan soldiers on this Muslim holy day of Eid.

The Newfoundlander is the senior medical mentor for the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) that has been working to strengthen the Afghan National Army (ANA) since 2006.

"This is great. I've never seen them party like this," says a grinning Barnes, with 1 Field Ambulance in Edmonton.
"We are so happy you are here," says ANA Sgt. Safiullah Salik, of Canada's efforts to guide the ANA.
OMLT acting commanding officer Lt.-Col. Martin Kenneally says these Afghan men are some of the fiercest troops in existence.

"They are very brave and tough as nails," says Kenneally, who is based in Edmonton. "We're in isolated locations and the threat is very high."
And a view on the present goings on in Canada thrown in for good measure, not that it impacts upon legitimate and necessary investigation of how Canada has upheld its international obligations:
Kenneally says the controversy swirling back in Canada over the mistreatment of Afghan prisoners by local authorities is a red herring for troops on the ground.

"Some of the things written about are dated. Overall, for an organization in existence five years in a war, it's amazing.

"They are outstanding soldiers and great people. Our privilege is we get to find that out."
We should be watching reporting such as this over the next little while. It could be all good news all the time from Afghanistan. A measure of the government's desperate need to have some good news come out of Afghanistan as discussions in Canada focus on such inconveniences as the detainee transfers that have occurred. Journalists may find themselves increasingly prodded to come along for such jaunts. The rules that Canadian journalists have to follow when "embedded" in the Afghan theatre of action may very well be colouring the resulting coverage. Can you read the above report and not think that there is a sense of being "in-bedded" with their military hosts?

With such reporting, a certain disparity between the Canadian picture and the American is evident. Why ever would President Obama be about to up his "surge" if it's all good news? It clearly isn't, see the NY Times today, "Afghans Detail a Secret Prison Still Operating on a U.S. Base," an uncomfortable echo of Canada's present preoccupation.