Out of an Abundance of Caution? Pentagon Scraps Huge Collection of Afghan War Footage From Database
13:52 GMT 02.11.2021 (Updated: 09:19 GMT 18.11.2022)
Last week, US Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko said that the Biden administration is withholding information from the public that could have predicted the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban*.
The Pentagon has temporarily scrapped a vast collection of Afghanistan War
footage that was previously published to the Defence Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS), according to US Department of Defence spokesman John Kirby.
He explained that the collection included about 120,000 photos and roughly 17,000 videos that were unpublished in order to protect Afghan civilians from Taliban reprisals, something that Kirby said "was done out of an abundance of caution".
"We did not delete, but we took off publicly accessible platforms and archived for future republication at a later date. We removed thousands of still imagery and videos that would show the faces or any other identifiable information about many of the Afghans that we have worked for and we have supported and who have supported us over the last 20 years", the Pentagon spokesman said.
He assured that the Pentagon will "absolutely republish" the footage "at the right time", declining to specify the exact date the imagery would be reposted.
30 August 2021, 20:37 GMT
The US defence news website Task & Purpose, in turn, noted that although the Pentagon stressed the need to prevent Afghans from being targeted by the Taliban as a reason to remove the footage, "a wide range of photos that do not show Afghan soldiers or civilians have also gone missing".
The news outlet added that many other photos, including portraits of US service members and American combat troops, have been archived.
Former US Army public affairs specialist Clay Beyersdorfer told told Task & Purpose that those images were "prior-approved by the same people who are now taking them down", adding that "it seems to be incredibly hypocritical".
"With America's longest war now over, a visual record of that era - the sacrifices made, hardships endured, and even the mistakes - takes on a greater meaning and importance. Now we have nothing to show for it, both physically and in memory", Beyersdorfer noted.
The remarks came after US Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko claimed late last week that the Biden administration had removed information from the public that could have predicted the fall of the Afghan government
to the Taliban.
"In my opinion, the full picture of what happened in August – and all the warning signs that could have predicted that outcome – will only be revealed if the information that the Departments of State and Defence have already restricted from public release will be made available", Sopko said during the Military Reporters and Editors Association's annual conference.
According to him, the information would have also helped Congress and the public assess whether the US should have ended its mission in Afghanistan earlier.
It took the Taliban just several weeks to take control over Afghanistan after US President Joe Biden announced the 31 August deadline for the withdrawal of American troops
from the country.
30 August 2021, 11:54 GMT
That was followed by a chaotic evacuation of Americans
and their allies, along with the deaths of 13 US soldiers and at least 60 Afghan civilians in a terrorist attack near the Kabul International Airport. Biden was widely criticised for the evacuation effort, which he called the "most difficult and largest airlift" in history.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation outlawed in Russia and many other countries.