Media Imperialism: How Top News Outlets Portray Taliban

As Edward Said once said: “All knowledge that is about human society, and not about the natural world, is historical knowledge and therefore rests upon judgment and interpretation. This is not to say that facts or data are non-existent, but that facts get their importance from what is made of them in interpretation… for interpretations depend very much on who the interpreter is, who he or she is addressing, what his or her purpose is, at what historical moment the interpretation takes place.” This argument is still relevant today.

A flurry of articles has over-hyped the Taliban threat just hours after the militant seized the capital, Kabul. Seizing the political and social turmoil in the country, the Western media has presented a “biased” coverage of the spat. It’s nearly impossible to read a balanced article that avoids one-sided coverage. After 20 years of militarily engaging in Afghanistan, the U.S. has failed to bring any change on the ground. Likewise, the Afghan government, which is undoubtedly a Western-backed puppet regime, has committed crimes against humanity. Nonetheless, the Western media ignored covering such crimes.

Though the Taliban has reaffirmed their commitment to Women’s rights, the Western media keeps terrorizing the civilians of the country through its daily propaganda. Media reports are largely biased and false. According to Dawn reports, the Taliban have urged women to join the government.

“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission said. “They should be in government structure according to Sharia law.”

This does not necessarily mean that we should blindly support the Taliban. But, we should not “romanticize” the US presence in the country as well. Frankly, the re-rise of the Taliban to power is a potent reminder to the U.S. that its strategy of “nation-building” is nothing but a failure. Until the present time, the Taliban seems less antagonistic, at least in theory, towards women. Though the insurgency has seized control of the largest news media in Afghanistan, Tolo News, the staff was treated politely, according to a female journalist who was reporting this week from the streets of Kabul.

“Deputy Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund instructed members of his group to ‘remain humble’ and to avoid behaving arrogantly as ‘the responsibilities of serving people’ are greater priorities. He was clear the Taliban should focus on providing security, livelihoods, and confidence to the Afghan people about the future and living in the country,” Hameed Hakimi, Research Associate at the Chatham House wrote.

The Taliban fighting for 20 years

The so-called war on terror prompted a plethora of consequences in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, yet Afghanistan suffered the most. Even before the war on terror, Afghanistan was a place of a power struggle between the ex-Soviet Union and the United States.

To contain the spread of communism in Afghanistan, the US backed the Mujahideen, an Islamic resistance movement. President Carter provided $500,000 worth of non-lethal assistance to Al- Mujahidin.

Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the civil war erupted. By 1992, political and religious factions fought for authority. Four years later, the Taliban rose to power. They had their own plans: “We want to go to Kabul and announce an Islamic government there,” a member of the movement said. Between 1996 and 2001, the Taliban had full control over the country.

The September 11 attacks had further strained the relations between Washington and Kabul. The Taliban refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden. Accordingly, the US started a war against the Taliban as a part of the so-called anti-terrorism initiative.

“The Taliban will pay a price,” former President Bush said in a televised address. A new interim government, backed by the US, rose to power to counter the hegemony of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Three years later the constitution was formed and Hamid Karzai was elected President. The Taliban-US war resulted in the death of at least 40,000 civilians. Add to this, the US spent at least 815 billion dollars to fight the Taliban.

Over the years, the international community has tried to bring the Taliban and the Afghani government to the negotiations table. But, overall peace and negotiations haven’t achieved anything.

It would be the pinnacle of blissful ignorance for anyone — particularly the Afghans themselves — to buy the fable that the US led an alliance of NATO countries halfway across the globe in 2001 to topple the Taliban and to give “hope” and “democracy” as a gift to the Afghan people,” Talha Abdulrazaq, an award-winning academic, writer and specialist in Middle Eastern strategic and security affairs, writes.

It is time to accept that the Taliban has its own supporters in Afghanistan. The only thing that the US could do is to follow a strategy of deterrence. This could happen through encouraging good behavior on their part, and promising severe punishment if they fail to abide by the agreement.

Whilst there are no guarantees that the US withdrawal will have positive implications on Kabul, the failure of US intervention in Afghanistan casts a spotlight on other alternatives to consider instead of imposing the American principles on the Afghans. The failure of US policy in Iraq is a potent reminder to the United States that forced democratization in failed states is not an effective strategy.

Now, the Taliban should transform itself from an insurgency to a well-functioning government. Indeed, this requires effort and time. “They must work with not only the traditional, largely rural, constituencies but also with cosmopolitan urbanites used to the freedom of speech, political satire, an endless number of local media channels, and a burgeoning entertainment industry,” Hakimi wrote.

The Taliban are aware enough that the international community is watching them. To put it in another way, they can’t afford not to be friends with the West, or at least they are not ready to have Western foes. At the end of the day, Afghanistan relies heavily on international donations. Accordingly, the ongoing campaign against the Taliban won’t change anything. Now, analysts should shift their focus on how we can move forward instead of romanticizing American interventionism.

Leave a Reply