Exchange with BBC presenter about Operation Mostarak in Afghanistan

Dear Ms Shah
Introducing a segment on the current US-led ‘surge’ in Helmand province on The World Tonight last night you stated "Operation Moshtarak in southern Afghanistan has two aims.  The first is to drive out the Taliban, the second is to bring good governance to the region." (
Shouldn’t you have said "Operation Moshtarak in southern Afghanistan has two STATED aims" or "NATO SAY Operation Moshtarak in southern Afghanistan has two aims"?
I ask because I am aware the Soviet Union’s publicly stated strategy for their invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s was "to prevent the establishment of… a terrorist regime and to protect the Afghan people from genocide", and also to provide "aid in stabilising the situation and the repulsion of possible external aggression" (
I presume you wouldn’t have taken the Soviet Union’s publicly stated reasons for invading and occupying Afghanistan at face value, so why have you done so with the US Government?
I look forward to your reply.
Kind regards
Ian Sinclair

Dear Mr Sinclair
Thanks very much for your email, I think you raise an interesting point. I would hope if journalists have learned anything from the coverage of recent conflicts, it would be scepticism and caution in assuming anything is a "fact". What I was hoping to convey in that opening script was that if these were their aims – stated or otherwise – then the death of civilians was going to severely compromise their ability of achieving them, however I could have been clearer in attributing the aims to NATO. Also the discussion at the end of the sequence took a very sceptical look at how much we really know about what is going on in Southern Afghanistan. Patrick Bishop, one of the contributors said it may be years before we know what actually happened and can then assess its consequences.
I do appreciate your thoughts as our use of language is something we discuss on a daily basis and anything that makes us think about it some more can only be a good thing.
Best wishes,
Ritula Shah

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