Image courtesy: Pfc. David Hauk, U.S. Army. Kandahar, Afghanistan, November 12, 2009

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Terrorists strike crucial bridge

Author and former Green Beret Michael Yon, who is currently on the ground in Afghanistan, is reporting that Taliban militants attacked an important bridge in the southern city of Kandahar on Monday. Near the bottom of an article about Operation Moshtarak in Marja, The Associated Press briefly mentions that a NATO soldier and four Afghan civilians were killed in the bombing. The bridge, which is reportedly damaged, connects the city with the crucial Kandahar Airfield. Yon, who heard the blast, writes on Facebook that the bridge "is important to us militarily, and to the economy. The enemy knows this bridge is important."

Yon is deeply troubled by events he believes led up to the bombing, and is pressing hard for answers. Obviously, I am not in Afghanistan, so I am not in the position to know if a different strategy could have prevented this attack. Yet Yon also highlights the lack of media attention being given to the incident in the United States, a coverage gap that is clear and indisputable. Prompted by his Facebook posts, I searched for articles in the mainstream press, and have yet to find any focused solely on the terrorist attack in Kandahar.

I have the utmost respect for the risks Yon is taking to report from the war theater, and can only imagine how frustrating it must be when important news from the battleground doesn't translate to airwaves, newsprint, and web hits in the country he loves. In fact, a scan of leading news websites at this hour gives top billing to Chile, Toyota, and health care instead of Afghanistan. While the chosen stories are legitimate, unlike many of the celebrity items that often fill the same sites, there is barely any mention of the war whatsoever, which is inexcusable. When will the media understand that drive-by coverage of an ongoing conflict is an irresponsible disservice to a nation at war? You can't just pick and choose when to talk about a war, you have to consistently report the news, good and bad, to people on the homefront. It's not only a patriotic obligation, it's simply good journalism.

While writing this blog post, I received a Pentagon press release in my inbox. It said an American soldier, Spc. Ian Gelig, was killed yesterday when his vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device in Kandahar. I called the 82nd Airborne Public Affairs office to ask whether Spc. Gelig, who served with the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was the soldier killed in the attack. While unable to specifically disclose whether it was the same incident, the office confirmed that Gelig did indeed give his life on a bridge. We mourn the loss of this brave American hero, and urge American journalists to take notice of these extraordinary sacrifices. Hopefully, the crucial bridge attacked yesterday in Kandahar can be fully secured soon.

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