Thursday 15 December 2011

General Richards: The media “frequently draw the wrong conclusion” on Afghanistan

The Chief of the Defence Staff gave an annual lecture to the Royal United Services Institute last night. General Sir David Richards spoke broadly about the global environment, the response of the armed forces and particular strategic challenges.
He argued that Britain’s main challenge was economic and emphasised the cultivation of strategic alliances to compensate for a smaller national military.   
He also spoke about media coverage of the UK armed forces in relation to Afghanistan:
"The operation is on track. We are succeeding and the population supports our efforts, as the latest Asia House analysis shows. Still the Taliban can play one card. They operate in the world of perceptions and convince many in the UK and elsewhere to see the operation as it was, not as it is.
"Perception lags reality by some 18 months. While we are, like a chess player, planning three or four moves ahead we cannot signal our plans openly. That leaves the media frequently, and understandably, to look only at what has happened.
"They frequently draw the wrong conclusion. If you want to see how those on the ground perceive the situation, and have a view on the commitment, resolve and optimism of the Afghan people, I commend this excellent Asia House report."
Not a particularly unusual assessment of media coverage of Afghanistan by a military representative. For what it’s worth, I’m not convinced that it is only the Taliban that operate in the "world of perceptions" and that actually the UK armed forces operate there as well with reasonable success. Distinguishing the ‘reality’ of Afghanistan from this "world of perceptions" is an exceptionally difficult task.
(I’m afraid I can’t find the Asia House report online…drop me a line if you know where I can find it.)


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