US pulls personnel from Afghan media center

After funding the press centre for more than 4 years, the US Embassy in Kabul announced it has withdrawn its advisers.

Washington: The US has abruptly withdrawn its advisers from the Afghan government media centre in Kabul amid concerns over the way it is being run.

After funding and supporting the press centre for more than four years, the US Embassy in Kabul announced yesterday that it has withdrawn its advisers from the centre.

"The United States is reassessing and reviewing its relationship with the Afghan Government Media Information Center (GMIC), and thought it appropriate to withdraw US personnel while that process is underway.

"We have been planning to transition US personnel and assistance, and that process has begun. We want to ensure that US support and resources are used efficiently and effectively as the transition takes place," the embassy said in a statement posted on its website.

The media office had become politicised in recent months, Washington Post quoted Afghan and Western officials as saying. It also said that pro- and anti-American factions within the Afghan government have sought to use the visibility
of the media centre to push certain causes.

The GMIC`s deputy director, Sefatullah Sahaf Safi said the Americans left unexpectedly.

"We didn`t get any notice," he said.

"There is no restriction on who can offer press conferences and who cannot," he said, "as long as we do not allow people to talk against the nation?s interests or insult individuals."

He said the centre will remain an independent
government agency regardless of whether the Americans return.
"We hope this will be solved and they will continue to support
GMIC," he said.

The embassy`s announcement came in the wake of a news
conference on Saturday at which members of a fact-finding
commission appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai
criticised night raids and house searches by the US-led
coalition in the country as part of anti-Taliban operations.

Their report prompted Karzai to announce that
Afghanistan would not sign a bilateral agreement with
Washington unless NATO stopped carrying out night raids.

A Western official with knowledge of the embassy`s
decision also said the decision to withdraw stemmed in part
from "concerns over how GMIC has been managed and allocation
of resources."

The center received USD four million last year, mostly
from the United States, and has said its international donors
gave it USD three million this year, the Post said.

The US embassy had three advisers at the center. The
US-led NATO command has also pulled the handful of troops
assigned to it, the report added.


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