Afghan Minerals Story “Aroused Considerable Suspicion from Times Readers”…

notes Bassey Etim at The New York Times’s The Lede blog today (of James Risen’s A1 Times piece today, “U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan.”)

Etim writes that Risen’s piece has “become one of the most commented [on] pieces of the year, with more than 600 published comments” — over 1,000 now— and that “for most who commented on the article, trust for American motives in the Middle East appears frayed by the Iraq war and mixed results in Afghanistan.”

Some commenters have questioned the timing of the story (Risen notes in the piece that “the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan”) and the newsiness of this news, issues also raised by Blake Hounshell at FP and The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder, among others.


[In Afghanistan], things don’t look good for the United States … which makes me suspicious of the timing of this attention-grabbing James Risen story in the Times


Were it not for the byline of James Risen, a New York Times reporter currently in a legal battle with the Obama administration over the identity of his sources, a second read of his blockbuster A1 story this morning, “U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan,” would engender some fairly acute skepticism.

And, from a BBC report on the Times’s report:

…questions are being asked about the timing of the release of information.

The details of a US Geological Service survey of the country were released in 2007. The US assessment of the worth of the deposits was completed in December last year.

The trillion dollar calculation was reported in the New York Times on 14 June.

The BBC’s Jill McGivering says that at a time of growing despair about Afghanistan and its government, the portrayal of the country as a potential goldmine could help to bolster international resolve and paint the country as a prize worth fighting for.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.