Thursday, 16 June 2011

Burying the Lede in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s second vice President, Karim Khalili, the Minister of Interior, Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, MoI leadership, NTM-A Deputy Commanding General and EUPOL and German Police Project Team officials gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony of Afghanistan’s largest premier police training facility.
So began a press release from the NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan (NTM-A).  The article describes the modern training facilities that will house 3,000 cadets once construction is completed.  The U.S.-funded, $106 million dollar facility has an impressive "23 barracks, eight classrooms, 23 guard towers, three dining facilities, three headquarters and administration buildings, gym, auditorium, medical facility, fire station and international trainers compound."

That fire station must have come in handy during yesterday's ribbon cutting ceremony for, you see, the NATO public affairs officers missed a more gripping intro to their report.

Buried deep in the story was this apparently throwaway paragraph:
As the ceremony was concluding, a rocket impacted in the training center.  There were no injuries or fatalities during the attack and dignitaries were able to safely depart the site.  Wardak province has a history of sporadic rocket attacks that are the ongoing focus of Afghan and NATO forces in that area.
 The Associated Press framed the incident differently:
The round crashed down and exploded within the grounds of the facility during its inauguration Wednesday, sending panicked police recruits crawling across the floor of a meeting hall and prompting bodyguards to bundle one of Afghanistan's vice presidents and the government minister in charge of police forces into helicopters and flee.
Spin is one thing but when self-congratulatory ribbon cuttings are deemed more news worthy than rocket attacks on senior Afghan politicians and NATO officials, a firm grounding in reality has somehow slipped away, if not in Afghanistan as a whole then at least in NATO's public affairs department. 


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