Dunford Declares Taliban’s Political Space “Significantly Reduced” on Day of Their Biggest Propaganda Win

I often note how the US military, throughout its nearly 13 year quagmire in Afghanistan, continues to spout “we’re winning” messages when it is clear that the entire effort has been an utter failure from the start. Juxtaposing a story in today’s Washington Post with another in today’s New York Times shows how the military’s rosy statements are devoid of all connection to reality on the ground.

The Post story centers on the military, with Joseph Dunford in the lead, filling in more details on projected troop staffing levels in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year. The article ends with this gem:

U.S. and NATO officials described a Taliban force that has been greatly debilitated since the beginning of this year and pointed to the successful first round of Afghanistan’s presidential election in April as a defeat for the militants. The top two vote-getters are competing in next week’s runoff to succeed President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign the bilateral security and status-of-forces agreements.

“In the wake of the election, for the first time . . . the Taliban are on the defensive in the information space,” the senior military official said. For 10 years, he said, the Taliban has had two messages — that the United States was occupying their country and ultimately would abandon it. In the wake of the turnover of combat operations to Afghan national forces over the past year, and Obama’s announcement for the future, those messages have less resonance, the official said. The coalition has made clear, the official said, that we “won’t fall off the cliff at the end of 2014.”

Dunford described “friction” within the Taliban and said that although the militants are still carrying out lethal attacks against Afghan forces, “if you compare the political space of the Taliban, it’s significantly reduced.”

Okay, then. The Taliban is “greatly debilitated”, are “on the defensive in the information space” and are “significantly reduced” in “the political space”. Yet, on the very day that Dunford and a “senior military officer” made such outrageous claims, the Taliban were happily scoring their biggest propaganda victory of the entire war in Afghanistan. From the Times:

The Taliban seem loose, almost offhand, on camera as they wait for the American Black Hawk to land. Two fighters walk their hostage, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, out to American troops, greeting their enemies eye to eye as they quickly shake hands. They wave as the Americans retreat back to the chopper.

In their viral video to the world on Wednesday, framing dramatic images of their transaction with the United States with music, commentary and context, the Taliban scored their biggest hit yet after years of effort to improve their publicity machine — one bent on portraying them as the legitimate government of Afghanistan in exile.

Within hours of the video’s release, the Taliban website where it was posted was overwhelmed with traffic and the page hosting it crashed, according to Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgents. The video has since been uploaded in dozens of different versions on YouTube.

It is the product of a Taliban propaganda effort that has grown increasingly savvy.

It’s hard to imagine a better example of how the US has lost all credibility when it comes to describing conditions in Afghanistan. Granted, the statements in the Post stem initially from claims made around the election going “smoothly“, but the sweeping statements quoted clearly are meant to apply to the Taliban’s situation generally, not just regarding the election. But the Taliban even covered that:

And they suggested that they had purposefully held back on attacking civilians on election day in April, and that Afghans should trust the Taliban over a government being chosen by Western ways.

We can only wonder how Dunford and his associates will ever be able to top this one.

8 replies
  1. par4 says:

    You could edit that statement to read “the U.S. has lost ALL credibility.” No need to add the qualifier “in Afghanistan.”

  2. drywit says:

    Oh, top it they will, as they’re always thinking of the Big Picture…i.e., “…protecting our phony-baloney jobs.” I grew up around the Military-Intelligence community and, even at a tender age, realized they were a truly stupendous collection of blowhards and/or criminals.

    PS: I never fail to impart this tidbit when encountering one of the current crop (they’re incredibly easy to spot). Please keep up the ridicule.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Dumb Dunford: “If you compare the political space of the Taliban, it’s significantly reduced.”
    Oh really. If that’s true then why didn’t the US allow the Taliban to run a candidate in the recent election? An election defeat of the Taliban would have been proof of Dunford’s claim, but not allowing Taliban to run has the opposite meaning — the Taliban might have scored well or even won the election. As it is, we have two surviving candidates who can be expected to do the US bidding in the near future (if not later).
    from the November 2013 Pentagon “Progress Report”–
    —-The insurgency has also consolidated gains in some of the rural areas in which it has traditionally held power. [so much for the surge]
    —-Insurgents maintained influence in many rural areas that serve as platforms to attack urban areas, and were able to carry out attacks with roughly the same frequency as in 2012.

  4. TarheelDem says:

    I see that the William Westmoreland school of generalship is still strong in the US military. Maybe it’s time to audit Dunford’s performance statistics. He considered every “space” (what a vapid buzzword) except the “military space” in his analysis of the situation. Do generals even think in terms other than PowerPoint bullets anymore?

  5. Don Bacon says:

    During a transitional period Dunford, in a departure of stated US policy, has only acted as a narrow-minded military commissar not recognizing any Afghan sovereignty, Westmoreland-style as THD says.
    But Dunford has had to write his own script, I imagine, because there is no sensible foreign policy leadership in Washington, nobody to keep generals like Dunford in line with policy.
    So runs his mouth off on Afghan politics which he knows nothing about. But hell, Americans have been doing that for years.

  6. bsbafflesbrains says:

    Most of the top brass own lots of Lockheed and Boeing stock and their dividend check tells them “we are winning”.

Comments are closed.