YANGON (March 10, 2014) – How will the regional media landscape be impacted by the planned American drawdown of troops in Afghanistan later this year? That was the question pondered by an international panel of journalists at the East-West Center’sInternatinal Media Conference in Yangon, Myanmar.
Moderated by Washington Post foreign policy blogger Maxwell Fisher, the panel looked at how the media in Afghanistan, India, Iraq and Pakistan has covered the war, and what local media are focusing on as the U.S. prepares to withdraw most of its troops from Afghanistan more than a dozen years after invading the country in the wake of 9/11.
Najiba Ayubi, director of The Killid Group, a media company based in Kabul, said she believes the narrative coming out of Afghanistan is inaccurate. “It’s a pity that not only the Afghan public, but also the world public must consume dramatic news and statements saying the U.S. will leave and there will be a new Civil War and al-Qaida will become strong again,” she said. “I do not think the U.S. Army will draw down from Afghanistan in a way that will affect U.S. interests in the region. This is the subtext. Of course, the U.S. would prefer to be kindly invited to stay and to use the military bases.”
Safiullah Gul, a tribal-areas bureau chief for the Dunya News Network in Peshawar, Pakistan, said a fear exists within sectors of the Pakistani government that if the Taliban were able to take control in Kabul again they would be able to seize power in Islamabad. He added that current skirmishes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border could lead to a refugee crisis. “There is fear that more than 700,000 families will be living as internally displaced persons,” he said.
Syed Nazakat, a security correspondent for The Week Magazine based in New Delhi, said that despite the long history between India and Afghanistan, media in his country do not pay regular attention to the conflict. However, he said, “whatever happens in Afghanistan has serious security implications for India. Number one: after the U.S. withdrawal, who is going to run the country? India, like so many countries in the west, didn’t accept the Taliban as the regime in the country.”
– Reporting by Casey Morell, Missouri School of Journalism