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Implicit Counterinsurgency: Media, Development and Security in Afghanistan Open Access

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This paper focuses on post-September 11, 2001 media assistance in Afghanistan at the confluence of the development and defense sectors, otherwise known as the security-development nexus. It is out of this nexus that a burgeoning press-state system developed amid an ongoing conflict between the Government of Afghanistan and an insurgency. What role then has the new media environment played in the campaign to win “hearts and minds” in Afghanistan since 2001 and how has this environment been shaped by the media assistance effort? This paper suggests the media assistance effort has created a new battlefield between the state and the insurgency, one in which both sides are making an argument to the people as the legitimate governing authority of the country. The argument is addressed from the state’s perspective by a qualitative review of two case studies. The first case analyzes the rise of a free and independent press over the past 15 years, which reveals a still-professionalizing media industry under threat from the insurgency, corrupt government officials, and economic pressures. The second case analyzes the role of the Government Media and Information Center (GMIC) and the network of small, regional media and information centers across the country. The GMIC network, despite unreliable funding and an evolving mission, has achieved mixed results in providing a credible voice of the government in the battle for the narrative against the Taliban. Together, the two cases reveal a successful intervention of media assistance, but an uncertain future for both sides of the press-state system.

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