Attacks in Afghanistan: Afghan Jack Bauer and Eagle Four, Wheeere Are Yoooou?

Spencer Ackerman of Danger Room made a note of the video put out by NATO-OTAN on the US Embassy Kabul attack yesterday.

The video appears designed to undermine that propaganda effort. Soldiers, Marines and their Afghan and foreign counterparts work calmly — but fiercely in tandem to direct rifle fire against the insurgents. Message: We got this — even if the Taliban just shattered the sense that NATO and the Afghan government at least had the capitol locked down.

At least six people are dead and 19 wounded, mostly Afghans, in a fight that subsided mere hours ago. We’re unaware of any previous effort from the U.S. military that got video out to social media nearly as quickly.

The 20-hour long attack on the US Embassy in  Kabul which is apparently “not a very big deal” according to Ambassador Crocker quoted here by the BBC is just the latest in the growing trend of attacks in and around Kabul.

Back in August, the State Department released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism. Below is part of the entry under Afghanistan:

2010 Terrorist Incidents: IED attacks, direct and indirect fire, and suicide attacks increased in 2010. The increase in ISAF troop presence from 100,000 to 131,730 and their kinetic activities likely led insurgents to increase their activity. There was a 72 percent increase in total kinetic events, with IEDs representing 25 to 40 percent of this activity. According to ISAF, the total number of civilians killed in 2010 exceeded those in 2009, totaling more than 1,408; the vast majority of these deaths were caused by insurgent elements.
While insurgent activity occurred daily, high profile attacks included:   

  • On February 26, 16 were killed, including nine Indian nationals, during an attack on two Indian guesthouses.
  • On May 28, the Taliban destroyed one school and threatened two others in the Lakan area of Khost; the attackers demanded the release of certain detainees before they would allow the schools to reopen.
  • On July 2, four were killed and 24 were wounded in an attack on the Kunduz office of Development Alternatives Incorporated.
  • On August 7, Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami claimed responsibility for killing 10 members of a medical mission team in Badakhshan Province.
  • On September 26, a British national who was kidnapped by insurgents was killed during a rescue attempt.
  • On October 8, the Kunduz governor Engineer Mohammad Omar, was assassinated.
  • On December 19, a suicide attack in Kabul killed five ANA officers.

Here’s a list of attacks from January – June 2011, the list will be longer in next year’s report.

Which makes me wonder where was Afghanistan’s Jack Bauer or Eagle Four in all these?

Here is the blurb on “Eagle Four” via vimeo:

Eagle Four (Oqaab Chaar) is the first ever 13 part action/drama series shot entirely in Afghanistan. The series follows an elite Afghan Police Unit working to fight crime and insurgency amidst the chaos of war. The series was written and directed by Sean Lynch alongside a team of talented Afghan filmmakers and crew at TOLO TV.

I can’t tell which one is supposed to be the Afghan Jack Bauer but watch the video:

EAGLE FOUR from Sean Lynch on Vimeo.

NPR notes in its report that television drama production is expensive anywhere, but neither the show’s Afghan producers nor the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is willing to tell reporters how much the program costs. Um, I wonder why not….

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirmed that the embassy provides funding for the program.

“We see this as an opportunity not only to help support the Afghan media sector, but hopefully also encourage a dialogue among Afghans about the role of the police in society and their growing capabilities,” she said.

Hayden refused to say what it is costing U.S. taxpayers to fund the 13 episodes of this season’s program. NPR has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the information.

Apparently US Embassy Kabul has also funded, in addition to “Eagle Four,”  a youth-oriented soap opera set at a Kandahar university and a reality show-style documentary about army life.

David Ensor who was Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and now Director of the Voice of America recently gave the keynote speech at USIP’s Media in Conflict: The Evaluation Imperative.

No transcript of that speech appears to be available online. But reported about the event and talked about “Eagle Four.” Excerpts below:

The shows are all meant to serve some public policy function, Ensor told an audience at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday. “Eagle Four,” for example, is aimed at raising public respect for Afghan police officers, who are widely regarded as corrupt, while the youth-oriented soap opera focuses heavily on female students who would have been banned from attending university during Taliban rule.
While the shows have proved generally popular among the war torn nation’s TV watchers, it’s far from clear whether they’ve had any tangible policy effect, such as raising army enlistments or improving respect for public officials.

The embassy recently hired a consulting firm to gauge the programs’ effectiveness, Ensor said, including through lengthy surveys of audience attitudes over time.
Ensor’s total budget for media projects at the embassy, he said, was about $183 million over 18 months.

So there you are, some $183 million, not sure how much went to the production of these entertaining shows.  I’m still waiting for the result of NPR’s FOIA request. I, too, would like to know how much taxpayer money was used to fund the 13 episodes of Eagle Four. 

Do you know? Or is that classified info we’d only find somewhere in the Internets? But …but… it’s entertainment news, what about the public interest?