Wednesday 6 February 2008

Afghanistan on BBC's Newsnight

I've just watched the Afghanistan piece that Newsnight have done on BBC 2. They decided to go with the angle that the US have agreed to help out reinforced British troops in Helmand province.

So the Newsnight team opted to have US General Wesley Clark (who spoke a lot of sense by the way) and former UK Secretary of Defence, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, discussing US and British military roles after a package by Diplomatic Editor, Mark Urban.

The problem was that this all became a bit of an Anglo-American love-in with Rifkind and Clark interrupting one another to pay tribute to US and British military strategy, forces, equipment etc respectively.

Presenter Kirsty Wark floundered around trying to bring up some sort of disagreement between the pair, pressing the line that US troops have better technological support compared to most British infantry units. Interesting? (To a specialist perhaps). But how relevant is this to the real news story here?

As I was watching, I felt that this discussion had become a poor sideshow to the two main issues: namely NATO's organisation and military structure in Afghanistan and the role of NATO's member states in implementing military strategy.

I wanted to hear from the Danes or the Germans or the Italians. I wanted to hear from a senior member of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Basically, I wanted to hear from somebody, (almost) anybody representing a different point of view on the story, not two people batting for the same team.

But then you can't always get what you want...not least when it comes to Afghanistan, as the UK and US governments are finding out.


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