Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies

Hashtag activism has failed Afghanistan
Posted:Jan 7, 2016
increase Font size decrease Font size
By Carlo Munoz
This week another American name was added to the list of the over 2,300 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have fought and died in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, 30, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was killed and two others were wounded during an attempt to evacuate wounded U.S. special operations forces during a firefight with Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.
Nearly a week earlier, six U.S. soldiers lost their lives in a suicide bombing attack in a central Afghanistan province just 45 minutes northwest of the country's capital of Kabul.
Seven Americans dead in the last two months, fighting a war the White House and Pentagon declared essentially over last December.
During the ensuing news cycle, reporters dutifully filed stories and news broadcasts, attempting to put into context why American troops continue to die carrying out what the Pentagon has dubbed a "non-combat mission."
Professional talking heads and armchair pundits took to the airwaves and social media to debate Washington's continuing involvement in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Defense Department spokesman Peter Cook characterized the loss of yet another American life in Afghanistan "a painful reminder" of what has now become the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.
But for all the breaking news coverage these latest casualties caused little more than a ripple online.
A day after the helicopter crash in Helmand, the hottest trending issues on Twitter and Facebook included #WeedMovies, #ZoeEverAfter and pictures of Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway wearing a bikini while pregnant.
In the post-9/11 world, the power of social media can act as a conduit to trigger widespread political upheaval, as seen during the Arab Spring. A simple hashtag, like #BringBackOurGirls, #Kony2012 or #JeSuisCharlie can ignite and unite the passions of millions across the globe behind a single cause.
Social media also has the power to take the virulent message of what was once the ragtag remnants of al Qaeda terror cells in Iraq and Syria and help transform them into the predominant existential terror threat facing the world today.
But amid all this, Afghanistan continues to bubble below the surface—a war that is entering its 14th year that has claimed thousands of U.S., NATO and Afghan lives has yet to garner a trending hashtag.
The simple question is why? And the answer, simply put, is Americans are simply tired of this war.
War weariness over Afghanistan and Iraq helped, in part, then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama take the White House in 2008 and again in 2012 on the promise he would end both conflicts during his presidency.
Even during the surge years of 2009 through 2011, arguably the bloodiest years of the conflict in which 1,200 U.S. died in Afghanistan, reporting on the war only made up four percent of total news coverage by U.S. outlets, according to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Afghan war coverage only made up five percent of U.S. all news coverage the previous year, according to the report. In 2015, U.S. casualty rates hit the lowest mark in Afghanistan since 2002, with 22 Americans dying in the conflict that year.
As a result, as of September 2015, only the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Al Jazeera and Stars and Stripes had reporters based in Kabul reporting on the war full time.
All the major U.S. network news outlets along with international news organizations such as the BBC, Guardian and Los Angeles Times have pulled out of Afghanistan, depending on a network of freelancers and local stringers to cover the war.
With the war shifting from a conventional conflict to the "grey war" fought by American and NATO "advisers" alongside Afghan troops, the shrinking press pool in Kabul is finding it increasingly harder to report from the front lines.
Officials from Operation Resolute Support, the moniker handed down by the Pentagon for America's "non-combat mission" in the country, say access to U.S. and NATO troops is limited since they are simply not in the midst of the fight anymore.
But to the American and NATO troops and their Afghan counterparts that still go outside the wire day in and day out, the war is not defined in the abstract terms favored by those in Kabul or Washington.
“Nothing has changed, really. Except for the rules of engagement,” Czech 1st Sgt. Mike Baka told me during a nighttime reconnaissance mission in July. Based at Bagram Airfield in central Afghanistan, Baka's unit patrolled the same area where a suicide bomber killed six American soldiers in December.
In the 2008 spy thriller Body of Lies, grizzled CIA division chief Ed Hoffman—played by Russell Crowe—succinctly characterized America's fortitude when it comes to prolonged war. In the film, Hoffman lays plain the country's attitude to the protracted nature of the Global War on Terror.
"Here at home with every death reported we have to deal with a public-opinion trajectory that slides rapidly from supportive to negative to downright hostile," he tells a duo of unbelieving State Department bureaucrats during the movie's opening monologue.
"People just get sick and tired of a moment's silence at a ball game. They just wanna be told that it's over."
After 14 years, Americans just want to be told that it is over. And online and on social media—for better or worse—it pretty much is.
The Daily Dot, January 8, 2016
increase Font size decrease Font size
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Nepal’s deposed king Gyanendra Shah has regretted that the country has lost its Hindu identity and said despair and unhappiness among the people might lead them to revolt once again. 


The first India-Palestine Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) signifies New Delhi’s commitment towards economic development and well being of Palestine writes Muddassir Quamar for South Asia Monitor

Intensifying searches is good. But with all this only about 15% of the tax-defaulters have been caught. Therefore the government must address the major sources of black money, writes Sudip Bhattacharyya for South Asia Monitor. 


BRICS meet in Goa

sites/default/files/Vignettes ThumbImage/1_8.jpg India-China differences and their discord over Pakistan are among differences in the BRICS that could “capsize” the grouping if the member nations fail to address competition and disagreements among them, Chinese media said today.

Well that should be it. Game, set and match. The three presidential debates — now mercifully over — have not been kind to Donald Trump, not least the constant use of the split screen which means his peevish, glowering and frequently interrupting persona is permanently on display to viewers.

In the afternoon of October 13, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty, passed away at the age of 88, in the 70th year of his reign. I ran to a café in Sukhumvit to watch the announcement, as streets in Bangkok grew quiet, people huddled around television screens, many sobbing in disbelief....


Address by M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs on Regional Integration and Prosperity at Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (October 5, 2016). Read more inside...

The cold, hard reality of the war in Syria is that the violence, bloodshed, and chaos continues unabated while the Left, such as it is, continues on in a state of schizophrenic madness. Different points of view, conflicting ideological tendencies, and a misunderstanding of the reality of the conflict are all relevant issues to be in...

On a sunny morning a young shepherd takes his cattle across the lovely winding Namka Chu into the dense pine forests on the ridge above. The cold wind blows in from the north and the boy looks up at the steep mountain ahead of him covered by rhododendrons.


The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and others of their ilk not only destabilise Pakistan and make it one of the world's most dangerous places but also threaten neighbouring Afghanistan and India -- and even far...


The book, written in the manner of a series of case studies, also points to the lack of a clearly enunciated national security strategy, a defence situational review, a defence strategy and a joint strategy for the armed forces -- all of this h...


The book ‘Pakistan at crossroads: Domestic Dynamics and External Pressures’  is one of the few books in recent years which fixes spotlight on various aspects of Pakistan; the internal flummoxing situation and external forces wh...


In a region which is unexplored as an asset class, performance will be the kingmaker. This book includes the author’s CDCF Portfolio basket for the SAARC asset class, which selects the best fundamental-p...


Sri Lanka has to be the most beautiful country I have ever seen, says John Gimlette, an accomplished travel writer who journeys to the island nation at the end of a long and brutal civil war. Anyone who has se...

Subscribe to our newsletter