AAN researchers, individually, each follow the topics that interest us – although we also keep an eye on overall output to make sure we keep our coverage broad and our topics various. But what about you, our readers: what are you interested in? Three years after re-vamping the AAN website in 2014, we took a look back to see which of our dispatches had been the most widely-read. The results appear to show that we have a very ‘well-rounded’ readership. War-related publications and pieces to do with major political developments generally got the highest number of readers, but ‘quirkier’ or esoteric topics – to do with how ethnic groups are studied, or aspect of Afghanistan’s culture and wildlife – also featured strongly in the top 50 most-read AAN dispatches. AAN’s Kate Clark reports (data from Sudhanshu Verma).
At AAN, we try to cover not only the big events, but also ‘slow-burn’ developments and issues of minority interest. To make sure we get a nicely broad coverage, we also set ourselves to report on seven key themes:
- War and Peace
- The Political Landscape
- International Engagement
- Economy and Development
- Rights and Freedoms
- Regional Relations
- Context and Culture
By category of dispatch, the percentage breakdown of the most-read dispatches was: war and peace 33%, political landscape 28%, context and culture 25%, economy and development 7%, rights and freedoms 4%, and international engagement 3%. (Regional relations did not feature in the top-50.) It suggests AAN’s readers turn to AAN for what we also perceive as our strengths – in-depth analysis of politics and security and an ability to put events into context.
Looking more closely at the list of our most-read dispatches, it seems that dispatches on major events that are not straightforward to understand attracted readers: why did Kunduz fall in 2015 (and continue to be troubled thereafter)? What did the death of Taleban leaders Mullah Muhammad Omar and then Mullah Akhtar Mansur mean to the insurgent group? What is Daesh? Indeed (as we also asked), why Daesh? In this category, although not war-related, appeared to fall AAN’s reporting on certain controversies, for example, the ethnic-based responses stirred up by the routing of the TUTAP electricity supply line, or the responses of mullahs and women’s rights activists to the mob killing of Farkhunda in 2015. In these pieces, we tried to give more detail and nuance to major events and explain the often complex responses of different parts of Afghan society.
Anything with biographies or information that is of lasting interest appeared to go down well, such as details of the new cabinet, or who was killed in a particular suicide attack, or what was in the Bilateral Security Agreement (signed in 2014 by the United States and Afghanistan).
Other popular dispatches were more surprising hits and may be related to a dearth of information from other sources. Two pieces, one on the study of Afghan ethnic groups, and another on how Uzbeks are reported on were both in the top 50, as was a look at the rise of a new Shia leader in Afghanistan.
Dispatches in our ‘Context and Culture’ category also featured heavily: the history of the pakol, films in which Afghanistan appears, the most useful foraging plants and the story of a houbara bustard tragically suspected of being a bird suicide bomber.
Here then is the list of the 50 dispatches which were most read by the AAN audience, 2014-2016.
- The Park Palace Attack: More losses for Afghanistan (updated with a list of the dead)
– 14 May 2015:
The Taleban attack on a Kabul guesthouse which killed 15 people (not 14, as earlier reports said) on 13 May 2015 was aimed, the Taleban claimed, at “invaders”, specifically an “important meeting” of “important people from many invading countries, especially Americans.” In this update of our earlier dispatch, AAN’s Kate Clark identifies all the dead: all were civilian and eight were aid workers, five, Afghans from the regions who had been visiting Kabul for training.
- Finally Towards a Complete Afghan Cabinet? The next 16 minister nominees and their bios (amended)
– 24 March 2015: Six months after the inauguration of the National Unity Government and two months after the last attempt to introduce cabinet members to the parliament, there is now a new list of nominees.
- The Shadows of ‘Islamic State’ in Afghanistan: What threat does it hold?
– 12 February 2015
: The Islamic State (IS) group, also known by an Arabic acronym, Daesh, has gained a toehold in Afghanistan, although with the loss in a drone strike of its most prominent and recently appointed commander, Rauf Khadem, that toehold is looking precarious.
- New Faces Versus Old Structures: Afghanistan’s national unity cabinet (amended)
– 12 January 2015:
inally, Afghanistan has a cabinet, pending parliament’s approval of course, three and a half months after Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah were inaugurated as president and chief executive officer (CEO) of a national unity government.
- From Alexander the Great to Ahmad Shah Massud: A social history of the pakol
– 3 January 2014: Te flat, woollen, rolled-up hat called a pakol is nowadays one of the undisputed symbols of Afghanistan.
- The Study and Understudy of Afghanistan’s Ethnic Groups: What we know – and don’t know
– 10 September 2014:
rm voting blocs to the share of power in government ministries to the composition of the insurgency, references to ethnic groups are frequently made in reporting and analysis.
- Power to the People: How to extend Afghans’ access to electricity –
3 February 2015:
Mr than four billion dollars have, to date, been spent on Afghanistan’s power infrastructure.
- Rambo Was Too Late: Afghanistan in Western films (part I), from 1909 to 2001
– 23 December 2014
: Afghanistan has rarely featured in western films, especially when compared to other foreign locales – from countries in Africa to Latin America to East Asia.
- The Fall of Kunduz: What does it tell us about the strength of the post-Omar Taleban?
– 30 September 2015
: The capture of Kunduz by the Taleban has surely written off any idea of the movement having been seriously undermined or fractured by the death of Mullah Omar and the leadership dispute that followed.
- Taleban in Transition: How Mansur’s death and Haibatullah’s ascension may affect the war (and peace)
– 27 May 2016:
Th illing of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur in an American drone strike has deprived the Taleban of their official, and before that, de facto leader of six years.
- Taleban Closing in on the City: The next round of the tug-of-war over Kunduz
– 2 September 2014
: Within the past two months, the Taleban have managed to secure additional territory around the provincial capital of Kunduz and have been closing in on the city itself.
- The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar
– 27 July 2016:
TheIlamic State’s local franchise in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on the TUTAP protests in Kabul on 23 July 2016.
- Afghanistan in World War I (1): Afghans in the Kaiser’s jihad
– 27 July 2014:
A hundred years ago, on 28 July 1914, the First World War started when Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia after a group of young pro-independence Serbian terrorists shot dead the Austro-Hungarian crown prince in Sarajevo one month earlier.
- To Say It Like It Is: Norway’s evaluation of its part in the international intervention
– 23 August 2016:
Norwyhas published the first comprehensive evaluation of one country’s contribution to the international intervention in Afghanistan.
- A new Afghan Shia Leader: Return to quietism versus political Islam?
– 2 November 2014:
A newlader is emerging in Afghanistan’s Shia community, one who so far has chosen to abstain from any presence or involvement in the religious or political affairs of the country.
- Power to the People (2): The TUTAP protests –
16 May 2016: When protesters interrupted President Ashraf Ghani’s speech in London three times on 13 May 2016, the heated controversy surrounding the route of TUTAP, a main electricity grid initiative, received even international attention.
- Toward Fragmentation? Mapping the post-Omar Taleban
– 24 November 2015:
The Taean movement has entered its third decade with infighting threatening its – up till now – remarkable unity.
- The Murree Process: Divisive peace talks further complicated by Mullah Omar’s death
– 5 August 2015
: News of Mullah Omar’s death was leaked just a day before a second meeting between Taleban and Afghan government representatives was supposed to have taken place.
- From ‘Slavers’ to ‘Warlords’: Descriptions of Afghanistan’s Uzbeks in western writing
– 17 October 2014:
From th arly 1800s to the present day, western writers have explored Afghanistan either in person or from a distance, their publications providing a view of Afghanistan’s governments and people to the wider audience in Europe, the United States and the west.
- Three Birds with One Stone: Signing the BSA and NATO SOFA to project reliability
– 6 October 2014
: By signing long-delayed security agreements with the US and NATO on the second day of its existence (30 September 2014), the new Afghan leadership has hit at least three birds with one stone.
- On the Cultural History of Opium – and how poppy came to Afghanistan
– 11 January 2016:
Mention rgs or Google the word ‘opium’ and the link to Afghanistan will never be far away.
- The Kabuliwala of Kolkata: Photo exhibition about a community longing for Afghanistan that once was home –
22 March 2015:
In the suubs of Kolkata, India, lives, in seclusion, a little known community of migrants who once came from Afghanistan – the first of them around the year of 1840.
- An “Afghan Exodus” (1): Facts, figures, trends
– 14 November 2015
: The on-going “exodus” of Afghans – now the second largest group entering the EU – has contributed to the increasing refugee numbers across Europe.
- Elections 2014 (51): Finally, a deal, but not yet democracy
– 21 September 2014:
After moretan three months of audits and behind-the-scenes negotiation, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah signed a deal today to set up a government of national unity.
- The Failed Pilot Test: Kunduz’ local governance crisis
– 5 June 2015:
The fightin n Kunduz is only one side of the problem.
- Helmand (1): A crisis a long time coming
– 10 March 2016
: The rapid fall of entire areas of Helmand to the Taleban during the second half of 2015 and early 2016 has left the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) scrambling to hold the line and try to push back, and led to international forces deploying troops to the province.
- The New Taleban Deputy Leaders: Is there an obvious successor to Akhtar Mansur?
– 10 February 2016:
Reports of tealleged killing of new Taleban leader Akhtar Mansur in December 2015 as well as his subsequent disappearance from public view have raised the question as to who might be next-in-line and whether there exists an internal, legitimate mechanism for succession.
- A Taleb Lost in a Polish Forest and More: Afghanistan in western films (part 2), 2001 to 2015
– 11 September 2015:
Since 2001, tee has been a relatively large number of western films that feature Afghanistan – either briefly or, in some cases, for the entire length of the movie.
- From Mullah Omar to Mansur: Change at the Taleban’s top leadership
– 31 July 2015:
After almost todays of silence, the Taleban have finally admitted that their supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahed, as they call him, has died.
- The 2016 Insurgency in the North: Beyond Kunduz city – lessons (not taken) from the Taleban takeover
– 30 January 2016:
In the last twomnths of 2015, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) conducted a significant counteroffensive to remove the Taleban from areas just outside Kunduz city as well as from a number of its outlying district centres.
- To Syria, not Afghanistan: Central Asian jihadis ‘neglect’ their neighbour –
8 October 2014:
Since the Americnand Northern Alliance defeat of the Taleban and their Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) allies in northern Afghanistan in late 2001, the arrival of would-be fighters from the former Soviet countries of Central Asia to Afghanistan has been a very small trickle.
- The Refugee Dilemma: Afghans in Pakistan between expulsion and failing aid schemes
– 9 March 2015:
Nearly 52,000 Afgas living in Pakistan have, within the past ten weeks, packed their belongings and crossed the border back into Afghanistan – more than twice as many as in the whole 12 months of 2014.
- Messages in Chalk: ‘Islamic State’ haunting Afghanistan?
– 17 November 2014:
Rumours of the preece of Islamic State (IS) elements in Afghanistan have repeatedly made it into the media over recent months, sparking public debate and adding to the anxiety about what course the insurgency might take.
- Chechens in Afghanistan 1: A Battlefield Myth That Will Not Die
– 27 June 2016:
In 2001, as the United States and other allied military forces attacked Taleban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, numerous soldiers, journalists and Afghans allied to the Americans relayed stories of a fearless and deadly opponent, incomparably worse than any other enemy: the Chechen.
- The Start into the Better Governance Marathon: Ghani’s first days –
11 October 2014:
New president Ashra hani has proven himself a man intent on not losing time – after so much of it had been lost in post-electoral counting, auditing and political wrangling since April 2014.
- Going in Circles: The never-ending story of Afghanistan’s unfinished Ring Road
– 16 January 2015:
Since the presidentilcampaign and during trips abroad President Ashraf Ghani has been promising to turn Afghanistan into an “Asian roundabout” for regional trade and transit.
- From Point Zero to ‘New Warmth’: Russian-Afghan relations since 1989
– 8 August 2014:
After the Soviet occuaion years, Afghan-Russian relations were on absolute zero.
- The Cabinet and the Parliament: Afghanistan’s government in trouble before it is formed
– 20 January 2015:
President Ashraf Ghanihs introduced his cabinet to the parliament, which now has to confirm or reject his candidates.
- The Killing of Farkhunda (2): Mullahs, feminists and a gap in the debate
– 29 April 2015:
From ultra-conservativeSlafis to secular-minded feminists, an astonishingly diverse range of voices have found their heroine in Farkhunda, the young woman who was lynched by a mob in Kabul on 19 March 2015.
- The IEC Announces 2016 Election Date – but what about electoral reform?
– 18 January 2016
: In a brief press conference on Monday 18 January 2016, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the date for Afghanistan’s next vote: 15 October 2016.
- ANSF Wrong-Footed: The Taleban offensive in Kunduz –
3 May 2015
: The Taleban’s first major onslaught in their ‘spring offensive’ this year took the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by surprise.
- Security in Kunduz Worsening Further: The case of Khanabad
– 28 October 2014
: Kunduz has had the worst security environment of any province in the north for the past few years.
- Shame and Impunity: Is violence against women becoming more brutal?
– 30 November 2014
: A father raping his daughter over almost ten years without the family daring to intervene (except to help with abortions); a woman burnt after a family fight; another woman mutilated because her husband enjoyed doing so – these are just some of the cases of violence against women and girls that have been reported in Afghan media over the past months.
- Hazaras in the Crosshairs? A scrutiny of recent incidents
– 24 April 2015:
Eight abductions of grousof people have been reported since late February by officials, activists or media as having targeted ethnic Hazaras.
- Stanakzai Goes from Peace to War: For Afghanistan, finally a defence minister? –
28 May 2015:
The national unity governet is making its fourth attempt to appoint a minister of defence.
- Bird Bomber: Police kill ‘dangerous’ houbara bustard (amended)
– 5 December 2014:
Police in Faryab have shotawild bird which had an antenna attached to it, fearing it had been sent by the Taleban to target them.
- The 2015 Insurgency in the North (3): The fall and recapture of Kunduz
– 16 October 2015
: It took 15 days of fierce fighting for Afghan government forces and their US allies to push the Taleban back out of Kunduz city.
- Plants of Afghanistan 2: the Koh-e Baba Foraging Top Ten (amended)
– 11 June 2012:
Wild rhubarb (chukri or raws) is surely one of the delights of the Afghan spring.
- Far From Back to Normal: The Kunduz crisis lingers on
– 17 August 2016
: The Taleban’s recent takeover of both Qala-ye Zal and Dasht-e Archi’s district centres is the latest episode in the long-running battle for possession of Kunduz province.
- Taleban in Transition 2: Who is in charge now?
– 22 June 2016
: The new Taleban leader, Mullah Haibatullah, is being closely scrutinised to see if he will try to shape the goals and methods of the insurgency.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020