CNN’s Clarissa Ward Returns to the Afghanistan War


Clarissa Ward had four days to recuperate and see her two sons, aged 1 and 3, at her parents’ home in France. Then he set off again, went back to work, and went to Pakistan via Qatar, which he reported from the Afghanistan border.

Ms. Ward, CNN’s chief international correspondent, was a broadcast reporter in the center stage as she presented her accounts of what Kabul was like in America’s chaotic final days, often accompanied by gunfire in the background. longest war. With his crew, he used eggs, cookies and Clif Bars to report on the US withdrawal and the sudden return of the Taliban to power. At times, he couldn’t help showing his emotions on air.

“I can’t sit down with an Afghan woman who screamed that her daughters would have to grow up in Taliban-led Afghanistan and wouldn’t be affected by it,” Ms Ward, 41, said in a video interview. “And I don’t think being affected by it makes me any less of a reporter,” from France last week.

His job included assignments in Baghdad and other conflict zones, including Aleppo, Syria, which often put him in danger and far from his privileged youth.

He was born in London to an American mother, interior designer and English father, an investment banker, as his 2020 memories recount in “On All Fronts”. By the age of 8 he had 11 different nannies. The house was for a time a series of townhouses on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that her mother had renovated and turned over. He then moved on to the elite English boarding schools Godstowe and Wycombe Abbey.

The idea of ​​pursuing a career in journalism came to him on September 11, 2001, when he was a senior in comparative literature at Yale. The attacks made him realize that there was a world radically different from anything he knew, a world that seemed poorly understood in the United States and Europe.

“It sounds arrogant, but I knew I had to go to the front to hear the stories of the people who lived there and tell them to the people at home,” he wrote in his book.

After interning at CNN, she studied Arabic and worked as a Fox News reporter in Beirut, Lebanon and Baghdad. He went to ABC, where he worked in Moscow and Beijing, and was hired by then-CBS News head David Rhodes in 2011. He posed as a tourist to infiltrate war-ravaged Syria, filming the video himself, and smuggling the footage onto memory cards sewn into his underwear. Him coverage It won a Peabody Award.

“It’s an art and a skill, and it takes a lot of experience to make the decisions you need to make to do this coverage safely, frankly, because you just have to be able to read through a difficult situation,” said Mr. Rhodes. is currently group director of British media company Sky.

“There are single-digit numbers around the world that are really good at this,” he added. “He’s one of those people.”

Ms. Ward joined CNN in 2015 and returned to Syria, again undercover. one of the few Western journalists behind the rebel lines. In 2018, she was promoted to international correspondent, replacing Christiane Amanpour, who took the role of anchor on CNN and PBS. Mrs Ward soon Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled Balkh province. Ms. Ward arrived in the country for her final round of reporting on August 2, planning to stay for two weeks.

“I would never have guessed that these two weeks would turn into three weeks and that we would be there for the fall of Kabul and that the fall of Kabul would happen in a matter of hours. quiet Sunday afternoon,” he said in the interview.

Earlier in the month, he was on the front lines with US-allied Afghan troops in Kandahar. Three days later, the Taliban took the city.

“What happened to you?” asked one of the soldiers on WhatsApp. I reached,” he said. “He just wrote: ‘We broke up.’ I think that was the beginning of my real understanding that the reason the incident was resolved so quickly was because Afghan security forces were no longer interested in this war.”

On August 14, Ms. Ward and her crew had moved to a fortified compound in Kabul. They were hoping for a break in the action when the Taliban troops arrived.

“We knew they were at the door at breakfast time,” he said. “They started making their way into the city in the afternoon.”

On August 16, dressed in a full-length black abaya, she reported from a street full of Taliban insurgents outside the US Embassy. “They just call it ‘Death to America,'” he said, looking at the CNN camera, “but they also seem friendly. That’s totally weird.”

Senator Ted CruzThe Texas Republican was quickly kicked out and posted a video of Mrs Ward’s report on Twitter with the comment: “Is there an enemy of America that CNN wouldn’t cheer for?” (CNN’s corporate communications department quickly replied on his own twitter account Referring to Mr Cruz’s decision this year leaving home in Houston during a winter storm when much of the state lost electricity: “Instead of fleeing to Cancun in difficult times, @clarissaward risks her life to tell the world what’s going on.”) Her work was overshadowed by the senator and other conservatives, highlighting how journalists can find out. While reporting from conflict zones during a period of deep polarization, their work or statements turned into political talking points.

“As a person who is absolutely not involved in the content of political news in any way, shape or form, I always get a little uncomfortable when you somehow fit the narrative,” Ms Ward said.

another report, Going live among Taliban members in Kabul, she highlighted a particular challenge she had overcome in Afghanistan before: “Because I’m a woman, they told me to stay on the sidelines,” she said.

As the days went by, he interviewed women who were too scared to leave their homes and others who were frantically trying to find a way out of the country. From outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 18, Ms. Ward reported He said Taliban fighters beat people trying to flee with batons and opened fire on the crowd.

Their latest report in Afghanistan has just caught their attention: Instagram follower count has increased from 60,000 to 250,000 in one week. With the growing visibility, critics on social media and elsewhere began to scrutinize the criticism, which in its August 20 report expressed doubts that the United States could carry out the planned mass evacuation.

“I’ve been sitting here 12 hours at the airport, eight hours at the airport, and I haven’t seen a single US plane take off,” he said on air that day. “How are you going to evacuate 50,000 people in the next two weeks? It just can’t be.”

days later, President Biden said From August 14 to August 24, the United States helped evacuate more than 70,000 people. The New York Times reported Last week, more than 123,000 people have been airlifted out of the country since July.

Ms Ward defended the August 20 post, saying it should be interpreted in the context of “live, instant reporting”.

“We have been at the airport since 7am locally,” he said. “From 7 to 10 am, we saw three US planes take off with the evacuees, but then they suddenly stopped for about 10 hours.” He added that at the time, he did not see how the United States could complete the evacuation in the time it had set for it.

CNN’s head, Jeff Zucker, praised his report, citing not only Afghanistan news but also posts about the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader this year. Alexey Navalny, military coup Myanmar and the impact of the pandemic in india.

“I’d have a hard time saying Clarissa wasn’t the most important person I’ve ever hired,” he said. “Willing to go where most won’t.”

Ms. Ward left Kabul on 20 August on a plane bound for Qatar with her crew and Afghans working for CNN. Barred from going directly to her home in London due to pandemic restrictions, she reunited in France with the German count and businessman Philipp von Bernstorff, whom she met at a dinner in Moscow in 2007, with her children and husband.

He said he sees himself as a reporter trying to provide viewers with an understanding of what is going on in conflict zones, while also capturing the experiences and reactions of those directly affected.

Regarding the troop withdrawal, he said, “It’s not my job to say whether it’s handled well.” “It’s my job to give these people a voice and tell them how they feel.”

He said he would continue to protect Afghanistan. For now, the Taliban said they are “talking” in terms of not violating women’s rights.

“Our job as journalists is to stick around long enough to figure out if they’re going for a walk,” he said. If we start to take a step back from retaliation, retaliatory killings, women’s rights or women’s education, we have to tell this story. And I feel very, very strong about it.”


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