Qatari state-funded news outlet Al Jazeera has frequently approached the Taliban with empathy, referring to the group’s actions as “armed resistance” and framing the U.S. coalition in Afghanistan as a “military presence.”Mujib Mashal, “'Former Taliban' in the Afghan peace puzzle,” Al Jazeera, January 3, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/12/20111222194735936218.html.
While discussing burgeoning Afghan opium exports in an October 2014 article, Al Jazeera noted the Taliban’s “success” and “strong authority” in reducing the opium trade in 2000.Michael Pizzi, “Afghan opium cultivation hits record high, fueling Taliban insurgency,” Al Jazeera, October 21, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/10/21/afghanistan-opiumrecord.html. Al Jazeera’s description of the Taliban’s success lies in stark contrast to its framing of the Afghan government’s “minimal reach and legitimacy” in terms of combating Afghanistan’s rural corruption and drug production.Michael Pizzi, “Afghan opium cultivation hits record high, fueling Taliban insurgency,” Al Jazeera, October 21, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/10/21/afghanistan-opiumrecord.html.
Al Jazeera articles on the struggling peace process blamed the collapse of the 2013 negotiations on the Afghan government, stating that attempts “came to nothing after the Afghan government objected to fanfare surrounding the opening of a Taliban office” in Qatar.Pakistan officials say Afghan Taliban has signaled peace talk readiness,” Al Jazeera, February 19, 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/2/19/pakistan-officials-say-afghan-taliban-has-signaled-peace-talk-readiness.html.
When reporting on Taliban attacks, Al Jazeera is careful to omit the word “terrorism” from its articles (unless it is quoting an Afghan or U.S. official in a statement)“Scores killed in attack on Peshawar school; Taliban claims responsibility,” Al Jazeera, December 16, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/16/scores-killed-inattackschoolinpeshawar.html. and instead frames the attacks as retaliation to military operations or in response to a “contested presidential election.”“Taliban claim deadly Afghanistan attack,” Al Jazeera, September 4, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/9/4/scores-dead-in-talibanattack.html.
The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news outlet regularly carries pieces by Reuters, the Associated Press, and Agence France Presse (AFP). A December 2014 AFP article reported that approximately “10,000 non-combatants [were] killed or wounded” in 2014, “75 percent of them by the Taliban.” The article expressed the Taliban’s unwillingness to negotiate for a political solution, quoting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as saying that the Taliban “would ‘continue its Jihad and struggle so long as a single foreigner remains in Afghanistan in a military uniform.’”“Taliban claim NATO ‘defeat’ as Afghan war ends,” Al Arabiya, December 29, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/12/29/Taliban-claim-NATO-defeat-in-13-year-Afghan-war-.html.
While reporting on the recent TTP attack on the primary school in Peshawar, (which resulted in more than 140 casualties, most of them children), Al Jazeera wrote that “It was not immediately clear whether some or all of the casualties were killed by the gunmen or in the ensuing battle with Pakistani security forces.”“Scores killed in attack on Peshawar school; Taliban claims responsibility,” Al Jazeera, December 16, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/16/scores-killed-inattackschoolinpeshawar.html. Asharq al-Awsat, a pan-Arab daily based in London, called it a “horrific attack, carried out by a relatively small number of militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, a Pakistani militant group trying to overthrow the government.” The article also questioned whether the TTP has been crippled by the Pakistani military, or whether it will have the strength to regroup, though the article failed to reach a conclusion.“Taliban storm Pakistani school, killing 126,” Asharq Al-Awsat, December 16, 2014, http://www.aawsat.net/2014/12/article55339527/pakistan-minister-84-dead-in-taliban-school-attack.
While covering the same attack, Al Arabiya put emphasis on the Afghan Taliban’s condemnation of the killing of children and innocents in Pakistan, although the article was quick to note that the Afghan Taliban “often target civilians.”“Pakistan resumes death penalty for terrorists,” Al Arabiya, December 17, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/asia/2014/12/17/Pakistan-in-mourning-for-141-killed-in-Taliban-school-.html. Written by an Al Arabiya staff writer, the article sought to frame the terror attack as coming from a place of weakness, stating the militants “don’t have the capacity” to “strike at the heart of the [Pakistani] military” and instead “are going for soft targets.” The stance of denouncing terrorism and framing militants as weak coincides with the goals of the Saudi government, which has been vocal in its condemnation of terrorism as it seeks to bolster its security against foreign and domestic opposition.“Pakistan resumes death penalty for terrorists,” Al Arabiya, December 17, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/asia/2014/12/17/Pakistan-in-mourning-for-141-killed-in-Taliban-school-.html.