Leaked files indicate U.S. pays Afghan media to run friendly stories
Buried among the 92,000 classified documents released Sunday by WikiLeaks is some intriguing evidence that the U.S. military
in Afghanistan has adopted a PR strategy that got it into trouble in
Iraq: paying local media outlets to run friendly stories.
Several reports from Army psychological operations units and provincial reconstruction teams
(also known as PRTs, civilian-military hybrids tasked with rebuilding
Afghanistan) show that local Afghan radio stations were under contract
to air content produced by the United States. Other reports show U.S.
military personnel apparently referring to Afghan reporters as "our
journalists" and directing them in how to do their jobs.
Such close collaboration between local media and U.S. forces
has been a headache for the Pentagon in the past: In 2005, Pentagon contractor the Lincoln Group was 12 hours of PSYOP Radio Content Programming
to two radio stations in the province of Ghazni in 2008, and paying one
of them "$3,900 for Radio Content Programming air time for the month of
"The PRT provided 12 hours of PSYOP Radio Content Programming to Radio Ghaznwyan
FM Station and Radio Ghazni AM/FM Station for week of 6-12 Nov. Topics
included Afghanistan History, Law, and Human Rights in both Dari and
Pashto, and a spreadsheet with the specific radio content programming
for the week of 6-12 Nov will be forward sepcor to SPARTAN.
Additionally, PRT paid Radio Ghaznwyan $3,900 for Radio Content
Programming air time for the month of October."
"Kapisa team met with a Kabul radio representative at the Kapisa TV and Radio
Station. Met with Rahimullah Samander, news director for Wakht News
Agency and president of the Afghan
Independent Journalists Association. He provided information about his
organizations and proposed a partnership with the PRT. He offered to
include PRT news articles and photos on his news service. The PRT IO
recommended a conference including Afghan and US military journalists to
collaborate and share ideas. Samander hopes to increase the presence
of his agency in Kapisa province."
Another 2008 memo records a similar meeting among psychological
operations soldiers, Jalalabad PRT members, and representatives of Radio
Television Afghanistan and the Shaiq Network. Both of these news
organizations were a member of Task Force Rock wrote
that "we ... had our journalist conduct an interview with the Afghan
National Police District Chief who condemned the attacks on their fellow
countrymen." In another 2007 message, a Task Force Diablo soldier
reported that after Taliban gunmen assassinated a local businessman,
leading village elders to question the Afghan police's ability to keep
the peace, "did not violate Department of Defense policy or U.S. law
, though the practice seems to have been discontinued in Iraq.
A Defense Department spokesperson did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.
— John Cook
is senior national reporter/blogger for Yahoo! News.