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If journalists are not shielded in Afghanistan, we might not see another Ahmed Rashid again

By Shubham
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    Even as US President Donald Trump laid down his Afghanistan strategy last year by increasing the number of American troops in the war-ravaged country; threatening Pakistan to pay the price if it did not in terrorists taking shelter on its territory and asking India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan to double the pressure on Islamabad to act in favour of the American interests.

    If journalists are not shielded in Afghanistan, we might not see another Ahmed Rashid again

    But despite these measures and tough talks, Afghanistan's reality hasn't changed and instead, it has deteriorated further. Blasts have become a regular feature in the life of the Afghans and the casualties have already touched record levels. However, the killings of 10 journalists in a blast in Kabul earlier this week perhaps constituted the biggest worry over how things are going ahead (or back) in the war-torn country where the American forces have been functioning since October 2001.

    The deliberate attacks on journalists in Afghanistan are a clear-cut approach to derail its democratic build-up.

    But targeting journalists means the fourth pillar is under attack and that can potentially destroy the line of communication between Afghanistan internal scenario and the outer world. The terror attacks on journalists also deliver a terrible blow to the 'local'. i.e., reporters who know the ground reality better and can dig out details from zones that might otherwise be difficult for foreign correspondents to access. Journalists being soft targets, it also becomes that much easier for the terrorists to target them.

    And if steps are not taken to protect the media from these terror attacks, then we might not see ever again a journalist like Ahmed Rashid braving all odds to report from Ground Zero and bringing to us the terrifying yet fascinating realities that exist deep within severely battered countries like Afghanistan. That will indeed be a sad day for journalism as well as the global movement for democracy.

    But with the international community failing to reach a consensus on how to give peace a chance in Afghanistan, the task of providing shelter to journalists looks all the more daunting.

    According to Reporters Without Borders, 34 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan in the last two years. It shows things haven't improved despite calls for renewed efforts from the heads of state of the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan to strive for peace.

    The parties involved in Afghanistan have far too conflicting interests and this has given the terrorist elements all the freedom to thrive.

    While the US has targeted Taliban and refuses to speak with them, Russia, China and Pakistan have backed the Taliban to defend their own interests - be it thwarting the Islamic State or other terrorists (in case of Russia and China) or India (in case of Pakistan).

    As long as these state actors have no consensus on their Afghanistan policy, the non-state actors will have little reason to stop executing their own sinister plans.

    The government of Afghanistan has remained perennially weak - politically and militarily - and that has been another major concern for the anti-terror forces in that country.

    The internal tussles, corruption, military weakness to tackle the terrorists, etc. have meant that the US has to stay in the country and its presence makes it all the more difficult for achieving an all-encompassing peace.

    Kabul's ordinary relations with Islamabad have not helped things either and even Pakistan's closest ally China has not been able to make them bridge the differences.

    And as the Taliban continue to regain control over the majority of Afghanistan, pushing the government's relevance to the corner, the entire crisis returns to square one.

    With so many loopholes to plug, it seems virtually impossible for the international community to resolve the Afghanistan crisis even as the war in that country is in its 17th year. And the failure of the political leadership leaves the media uncovered and vulnerable.

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