In trying to explain why Afghan civilians are taking up arms and fighting with the Taliban against the Afghanistan army and NATO forces, he says you have to understand not only the desperate everyday existence of life in a war-ravaged country but also multiple layers of politics, economics and tribal history — almost none of which you find in Western reporting. Again, shades of Vietnam.

Khaja expects some Al Jazeera America viewers will watch "On the Frontline" and "This Is Taliban Country" with a critical eye, and he welcomes it.

"I want to remind people who are watching the documentary that I'm embedded with the Taliban — that's very important to understand," he says. "It's difficult to get an honest version of reality when you are together with a warring party, I'm telling you. But I have access, and I believe I have the experience to use it to tell a story that has largely gone untold in the West. And I think it is an important story to tell today."

As the U.S. prepares to pull out of Afghanistan, leaving behind another horrible tally of American lives and money lost, it is a story that must be told and understood in this country if we don't want more Vietnams, Iraqs and Afghanistans.

Al Jazeera does have a bias in favor of countries and people who find themselves under the control of armies from outside their borders — there is no doubt about it.

But whatever the reasons for Al Jazeera bringing Khaja's work on Afghanistan to a prime-time American audience, the channel is serving democracy in the best tradition of journalism. It's bringing viewers information about matters of life and death that they probably otherwise wouldn't have.

The question is whether American viewers are going to be wise enough to avail themselves of it

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik

On TV

"On the Frontline with the Taliban" airs at 9 p.m. March 21 on Al Jazeera America.

"This Is Taliban Country" airs at 9 p.m. March 28 on Al Jazeera America.



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