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Afghan war disinterest benefits military: expert

Afghan war disinterest benefits military: expert

Published: 18 Jul 2011 15:18 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Jul 2011 15:18 GMT+02:00

The Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) benefit from the relatively low political interest in the war in Afghanistan.

With their information campaigns, the Armed Forces aims to keep interest down, claims Wilhelm Agrell, Intelligence Analysis Professor at Lund University.

The war in Afghanistan has made the Swedish forces more similar to those of other countries at war, as major investments are made to control the media's reports. If interest in the war had been greater, this control would have been lost, according to Agrell.

Just like the military in other warring countries, the Swedish Armed Forces have grown concerned with how the Afghanistan operation is described, anxious to see the media label it successful.

"It's becoming more and more important to create a positive image of the operation, and the results that are achieved, because such an image affects the support from the general public, and if that support is lost, the political support for the operation will quickly disappear too," he said to news agency TT.

"This image is fragile, and can crack quickly, and when it does, other media forces take over. And these are stronger than all authorities, including the Armed Forces," said Agrell.

He is surprised that the Armed Forces have been so successful in controlling the media image, and believes that there has been little political criticism of the war.

"The main contributing factor is that this war is very far away. The image of the war is strongly controlled and very selective. Behind this there's a large disinterest. The Afghanistan issue isn't very big in Sweden, but has potential to grow if for instance very negative conditions about the operation are reported."

Erik Lagersten, the Swedish Armed Forces' information officer, disagrees with Wilhelm Agrell's view that the Forces are attempting to give a positive image of the operation.

"We show both unflattering and successful factors in Afghanistan. There's no goal from our side to describe the operation one way or another," he explained.

"Our goal is to be pro-active, to always try to be the first to report what has happened."

Being quick is one alternative explanation for why the Armed Forces' image of the war is dominant.

"This reduces alternative interpretations of events. We show facts, and hope that others will respond to them."

Lagersten rejects Agrell's claims that a low interest in Afghanistan is beneficial for the Armed Forces, instead calling for more media attention.

Playing the role of sole reporter leaves the forces vulnerable to criticism, according to him.

"Far too much reporting is left for the Swedish Armed Forces to do. This leads to us occasionally being criticised for inaccurate information," said Lagersten.

According to him, the forces don't try to sway public opinion to affect politicians in their decision-making, but that once a decision has already been made, raising awareness may become necessary.

"I wouldn't call it swaying opinion, but simply giving as much information as possible with the goal of supporting the politicians' decision."

Allan Widman, the Liberal Party's (Folkpartiet) defense policy spokesman, is happy with the information coming from the Swedish Armed Forces, but also understands Agrell's point.

"There's always a tendency to try to describe things as hopeful. I don't think our authorities are the only ones affected by this tendency. Politicians probably do it too, I'm afraid," he said.

TT/The Local/cg (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:55 July 18, 2011 by Marc the Texan
Everything's going according to plan.
17:34 July 18, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
"The war in Afghanistan has made the Swedish forces more similar to those of other countries at war, as major investments are made to control the media's reports. If interest in the war had been greater, this control would have been lost," according to Wilhelm Agrell, Intelligence Analysis Professor at Lund University.

Bravo! And I thought that the control of the media's reports were in the hands of Roberta Alenius, the so-called Press Secretary of Fredrik Reinfeldt.
19:21 July 18, 2011 by zooeden
Clara Guibourg a big funk yer for hiding info!!!
19:46 July 18, 2011 by Axemen.se
Should we be concerned about our voicemails?
20:24 July 18, 2011 by johnny1939
Holy Cow!!!! Positive Image of a war? People die in wars. This is disgraceful and we don't even have a reason to be there. This is an American war!
22:24 July 18, 2011 by chemist007
wastage of taxes paid by the Swedes just for the Americans.
23:02 July 18, 2011 by Alfred Nevada
I would support a full & immediate disengagement & withdrawal from Afghanistan & Iraq, with NO residual troops in either country.

That means zero U.S. troops, zero Swedish troops, zero British troops, or anyone else. That also means zero CIA (or "agriculture advisors"/CIA) either, or any other "intelligence" personnel. In word and in deed.

And no Haliburton, Blackwater, Xe, or any other military contractor either.
00:51 July 19, 2011 by h2m
what about Oil if west disengages Iraq and middle east can you afford that?

May be we try to delay the resonance of East but it late India and china have risen
01:21 July 19, 2011 by unseen
http://www.theonion.com/articles/us-quietly-slips-out-of-afghanistan-in-dead-of-nig,20957/?utm_source=recentnews
01:34 July 19, 2011 by Jahanzeb Khan
Since 1945, Europe as a whole has been an ally. With the rise of the US and the USSR, a large part of it joined the USSR, and the rest of the countries allied with the US.

The formation of EU was actually an attempt to seek an identity, which has not been a success yet. Because few of big EU members still find their interest in global games (while allying with the US) instead of mixing with EU, i.e. Britain and France etc. Similarly, NATO is also a similar hurdle.

The war of terrorism is now becoming a good source of business, for security equipment producers, detective and security personnel providers, news-sellers, and even for domestic militaries. It is not unthinkable that the US may adopt any 'way' to keep countries (or at least their armed forces) an ally in its war of terror.
03:21 July 19, 2011 by Alfred Nevada
@ h2m: At least you are honest about why we are in that theatre -- it is all about the oil, and no other reason. It is certainly not about "fighting terrorism."
11:43 July 19, 2011 by AHA
If a country or nation does not want to save itself no other country from outside can do that. Just look at Africa. The UN was involved militarily in many countries there since the early 1950ies. The same chaos prevail today. If pople don´t want to change nothing can change them. Bring back our boys and girls an don´t sent any military items to no one.
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