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Taliban strengthens political position of Afghan defence agencies - 6.5.2008
Andrei Serenko (photo:

Taliban strengthens political position of Afghan defence agenciesAndrei Serenko – Expert at the centre for studying contemporary Afghanistan

The audacious attack by terrorists during a military parade in Kabul on the 27th of April has in the end strengthened the political position of the heads of Afghan defence structures. At the same time it showed that western public opinion, especially its direct constructors – European mass media is the weakest link in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This has become obvious after the recent terrorist attack carried out in Kabul.

Military parade foiled by Islamic militants (some reports say Taliban insurgents, while some others - the activists of the Islamic Party of Afghanistan) shocked several mass media outlets in the West. British daily, The Guardian had turned into a mouthpiece of European panic by presenting an apocalyptic article about the collapse of the NATO mission in Afghanistan and the weakness of the Hamid Karzai regime after the terrorist attack in Kabul. Leaving aside piquancy of current relations between Kabul and London it is worth mentioning that the British daily made such radical forecasts and conclusions based only on the single terrorist attack in April.

The April 27 incident and the western mass media’s response to it make it possible for drawing several important conclusions.

The terrorist attack in the Afghan capital has proven that the western public opinion and mass media have extremely thin psychological “pain threshold”. Painting almost disastrous political consequences of the terrorist attack the European publications, especially British, wrote their own “clinical report” showing that they are inclined to panic. Accusing the Afghan authorities and heads of power structures of being confused The Guardian demonstrates it openly in its articles. However, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai came round already after two hours and made a televised appeal to the nation the European, especially British newspapers had continued to panic even several days after the incident.

In short, the attack on the military parade of the Afghan national army on the 27th of April had made an impression on European mass media rather than the Afghan authorities.

It is an alarming factor for Kabul that British mass media, which is distinguished by great firmness, compared with many other partners of the NATO coalition demonstrates thin psychological “pain threshold”. The high susceptibility of British journalists to terrorist attacks by Taliban (if it is not dictated by some other more sensitive reasons, of course) and forming up of defeatist sentiment in British public opinion could be a real problem for Presidential Palace in Kabul as well as British politicians and military, which are involved in the NATO operation in Afghanistan.

Observers have drawn attention to the fact that European mass media outlets make shattering conclusions concerning the prospects of the NATO mission and Hamid Karzai regime on the basis of a single terrorist attack by the armed opposition. Such analytical invectives are proved to be quite dubious. Russian experience in fighting terrorism shows that even the most successful attack by militants does not pose a threat to the political regime or the system of government. On the contrary, the authorities use these attacks later to introduce tough measures and strengthen political status of the defence structures.

Among the most significant examples are the seizure by Chechen terrorists in 2002 of the Theatre Centre on Dubrovka in Moscow where the sorrowful musical Nord Ost was staged and the assassination of the Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov by the militants led by Shamil Basaev in Grozny in May 2004. Despite the impertinence of the terrorists the two attacks could not collapse the regime headed by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin but on the contrary, it acquired new mobilizing potential. Consequently, the position of Russian special services had strengthened. In the end, this has led to the elimination of almost all leaders of the Chechen terrorist underground.

Clearly, NATO mass media outlets have to do something to make the western information space balanced so as not to allow the escalation of panic rumours and sentiment in public opinion in the countries of Afghan coalition.

Notably, unlike British mass media, the April 27 events showed that American information community and politicians displayed firm position concerning the Afghan issue. Washington assessed soberly the attack carried out by terrorists during the military parade as a the confirmation of the policy pursued by Hamid Karzai who insists on the increasing of Western aid to Afghanistan and the modernization of the national armed forces and defence structures. The calmness of American information agencies in estimating the event of the 27th April ahead of the presidential election could be interpret as the resumption of the policy supporting Hamid Karzai.

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