Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

When is a coalition not a coalition?


How can you tell when U.S. forces in Afghanistan are operating alone?

When they call it “the coalition”.

That’s not a joke. It’s just how things work in Afghanistan, where two separate forces with two separate command structures — one completely American, the other about half American — operate side by side under the command of the same U.S. general.

 ”When we say ‘coalition’, basically that means it’s just us,” a helpful U.S. military spokeswoman explained last month to a reporter who had just arrived in country after being away for a couple of  years. “Otherwise, it’s the ‘alliance’.”

And it’s not just words.

“The alliance” and “the coalition” maintain completely separate press offices, each of which is often allowed to give only bits and pieces of detail about the same incident. The result can be a bit confusing.

First, some history.

The “coalition” refers to Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. (or, as they like to say, “U.S.-led”) mission ordered by President George W. Bush back in 2001 to catch Osama bin Laden and overthrow the Taliban.