National Press Club

Afghan radio broadcaster undercuts Pentagon account of U.S. military assault on his station

May 15, 2014 | By John M. Donnelly | jdonnelly@cq.com

An Afghan journalist who says he was detained and beaten by U.S. military personnel one night last February cast doubt this week on a senior U.S. military official's written defense of the actions of American commandos during the incident.

Last March, the New York Times reported that U.S. special forces raided an Afghan radio station, Radio Paighame Milli, allegedly destroying equipment, detaining three employees, cutting off the station's broadcasts and, later, beating and threatening the station owner, Qazi Nasir Mudassir, while he was in detention. Ironically, the Times reported, the station was known for airing U.S.-sponsored advertisements supporting the U.S.-led coalition of military forces in Afghanistan.

After the Times story broke, the National Press Club wrote Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel seeking an explanation. An answer arrived this week in the form of a letter from the vice director of the Joint Staff, Army Maj. Gen. Frederick S. Rudesheim. The general stated that U.S. commandos, along with Afghan forces, raided the station in search of Taliban arms and, he said, they found rocket propelled grenades, AK-47s and magazines. He said the three people detained had fraudulent documents alleging authority to have the weapons. And, he added, there were "no indications" of mistreatment or damaged property.

However, in sharp contrast to Rudesheim's account, in an interview this week with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mudassir said that, after he was released from custody, U.S. forces came to him and apologized for doing the very things that--according to Rudesheim's account--they did not do.

Specifically, Bob Dietz, CPJ's program coordinator for Asia, offered the National Press Club the following account of an on-the-record phone conversation with Mudassir on May 14: Mudassir "said the American forces came back and apologized for the misunderstanding and admitted that he was innocent of the allegations. They gave him back his weapons, which he stressed he had permits for from the government. His broken equipment has not been replaced yet. The American forces told him that they will work with the Afghan government to replace them, but he has not heard from any one since. The local Afghan officials, he said, were on his side the whole time which he was thankful for."

The conflicting accounts add new questions about the U.S. military's actions in this case.

The National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club monitors threats to press freedom worldwide.