Earlier this week, Politico reported that the media embed process would be led by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense within a matter of months.
Turns out, that’s partly true. As my colleague Jeff Schogol reports this morning, the International Security Assistance Force will continue to oversee the embed process for reporters wishing to work alongside U.S. and coalition forces downrange. The MOD will be put in charge of embeds this spring — but only for journalists wishing to embed directly with Afghan forces.
That’s no small distinction. While the war in Afghanistan has shifted to put Afghan National Security Forces in the lead in providing security in most regions, there are still about 66,000 U.S. forces deployed there. Many journalists — present company included — are willing to take risks to cover their story, but have significantly more concerns about riding around alone in a pickup truck with Afghan soldiers.
Lt. Col. Richard Spiegel, a spokesman with ISAF Joint Command, said the shift to security force assistance will mean there are significantly fewer opportunities to embed with U.S. forces.
“Simply put, SFA units are smaller and will have less capacity,” he said.
With patience and planning, the option is still there, however.
The misunderstanding does raise questions about what the future of media coverage in Afghanistan looks like. There are currently dozens, if not hundreds, of journalists who travel to and from Afghanistan every year to embed with U.S. forces.
At some point, keeping an eye on the war will become progressively more difficult without assuming additional risk and embedding with Afghan forces. Some journalists will undoubtedly do it, but it remains to be seen how it will work and how open the Afghans will be.