Media coverage of Afghanistan War fluctuated with US troop levels

Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°107 | 27 August 2021

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SPRI is out with a new report. It’s a short one that takes the long view at how the major news networks have covered the Afghanistan War. You can read the thing here (Twitter link, here). Summary is below.


We find that after the US’ invasion of Afghanistan, mainstream media coverage* has reflected the number of US troops on the ground. When there was a surge of troops in 2009, the media followed. When US troops started leaving a couple years after the surge, the major news networks kind of did, too.

In this way, the recent media frenzy has been an aberration (even though there was a small surge of troops to assist in the evacuation).

*Media coverage defined as the three largest broadcast networks; data via Andrew Tyndall via Jim Lobe in RS.

What major media outlet coverage did not track with was violence against Afghan civilians. Even though the coverage of big 3 broadcast networks dropped after US troops left, the number of civilian deaths did not:

What this sort of coverage does is create a safe haven for shitty foreign policy ideas. Namely, the ones that insist that the stalemate over the last few years was ‘low cost’ and/or ‘sustainable.’ Nothing about that last chart looks low cost and/or sustainable, but that’s exactly the part major networks are leaving out.

Again, you can read the whole thing here and share it on Twitter, here.

Thanks for your time,

Stephen (@stephensemler;

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