There's a lot of news coming out of the Afghanistan today, what with NATO helicopters clashing with Pakistani troops along the Afghan border. But news, lest we forget, is in the eye of the beholder, and reports from Afghanistan often present us with alternate realities. Take today's Washington Post report that the Obama administration has accelerated direct talks with the Taliban. NATO's Kabul-based International Security Assistance Force hasn't commented on today's article but linked to a similar report in the German press earlier this week. Yet the Taliban, whose Twitter feed and website we highlighted last week, is having none of it. The militant group tweeted, "Reports on 'peace' talks with US false. These repeated lies attest to Americas failure in Afghanistan!!!"
How else have the Taliban's accounts of the war in Afghanistan differed in recent days from NATO's and the media's? Let's take a look:
'Insurgent' vs. 'Invader' Deaths in Paktika Province
The AP, citing a provincial spokesman in Paktika, is reporting that 12 insurgents were killed overnight and today in the eastern province, with no casualties among Afghan or NATO forces.
NATO mentions the strikes in a statement quoted by the AP but confirms only nine dead insurgents. The Taliban, meanwhile, makes no mention of dead insurgents and instead reports that "a roadside bomb blast tore through the U.S. invaders' tank" in Paktika on Tuesday, "killing or wounding four US invaders on board." In fact, the Taliban has been reporting that its fighters have killed NATO "invaders" (a.k.a "terrorist forces" or "cowardly soldiers") and their Afghan "puppets" and "local minions" in Paktika all week, while NATO has spent the week discussing advances in preventative medicine in the province and the tips its forces have received from local villagers as cooperation between locals and the military has increased.
Success vs. the Arrest of 'Robin Hood' in Uruzgan Province
In a press release today, NATO touts its "week of successes" in the central province of Uruzgan, which include the detention of insurgent leaders and the discovery of a suicide vest and improvised explosive device components.
The Taliban acknowledges none of this success. It references Uruzgan only once, noting today that the "famous local police commander" Abdul Razziq surrendered to the "Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate" along with eight of his bodyguards last night. If we have the right Abdul Razziq, he's the border police commander The Washington Post called the "Afghan Robin Hood" last year for his relentless pursuit of the Taliban. News outlets haven't picked up either side's story.
Detentions vs. Tank Explosions in Panjwa'i District
In its morning update today, NATO reports that it captured a "Taliban facilitator" who was "involved in building improvised explosive devices for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces" in Panjwa'i district in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday.
The Taliban reports that a U.S. tank was "blown apart" in Panjwa'i district on Monday, "instantly killing all 4 terrorists inside including their puppet translator." Once more, the media is silent on events in the district.
Competing Accounts of Teenage Boy's Death in Nangarhar Province
Over the weekend, The Los Angeles Times reported that hundreds of Afghans demonstrated violently on Saturday after U.S. forces killed a 15-year-old boy in the eastern province of Nangarhar. "The often-inadvertent killing of Afghan civilians by foreign troops is a major source of friction between Western allies and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, undermining a joint bid to win the 'hearts and minds' of the Afghan public in the fight against the insurgency," The L.A. Times noted.
In a statement, NATO explained that when security forces searching for a Taliban leader in the province tried to clear a room, the "local 15-year old male" reached for a shotgun and a pistol, at which point, "as a force protection measure, a security force member engaged the individual, resulting in his death." A NATO spokesman was quoted as saying the coaltion was "deeply sorry for this tragedy" and that NATO would try to prevent the situation from happening in the future. "In our efforts to secure the population we go to great lengths in our operations to reduce civilian casualties to an absolute minimum," he said. The coaltion, as far as we can tell, hasn't commented on the protests on Saturday, which turned deadly.
The Taliban, meanwhile, wrote, "the US invading forces" committed "a brutal and heinous act [of] terrorism" and "martyred son of Awal Gul, a child of ten, while he was sleeping after the invaders did not get any thing else and mercilessly beat up the civilians last night."