The Absurd, The Surreal USAGM

The surreal USAGM – U.S. Agency for Global Media’s Voice of America (VOA) wants to commemorate the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.


by The Federalist

It’s the gift that keeps on giving: announcements from senior executives and the so-called “managers” of the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM). In this case, an announcement by Yolanda Lopez, the titular head of the Voice of America (VOA). “Titular head” means she has the title, but not what it takes to run a U.S. Federal government-funded operation. She is, however, one of the VOA managers most highly regarded by the current acting USAGM CEO, Kelu Chao, and the former VOA director, Amanda Bennett, who was nominated by President Biden to run the agency if she can win confirmation from the U.S. Senate. The list of agency and VOA scandals under their triumvirate of the last several years has been truly unprecedented. See USAGM Watch commentary: Voice of America and USAGM Need Rescue.

The Absurd, The Surreal – Commemorating The Disaster in Afghanistan

In an agency with a reputation for doing some outrageous things in its programming, here is one (a Lopez note) that has to rocket its way toward the top of any list accounting for such feats. This is so bizarre that we have to show it in its entirety:

“Please be sure to mark your calendars for the Virtual Summer Town Hall event on August 17, 1:00 pm EDT. I look forward to seeing you there.

The South & Central Division and VOA Afghan Service will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover of Afghanistan with a slate of special coverage and programs on VOA Afghan’s radio, satellite and digital platforms.  VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem, who reported on the fall of Kabul, is hoping to return to the Afghan capital to provide exclusive coverage on the Taliban’s return to power.  Additionally, VOA Afghan will co –moderate a panel discussion on the Afghan anniversary on August 8, 1:30-3:30 pm EDT at the Lohrfink Auditorium, Georgetown University.  Ayesha is also expected to speak on life under the Taliban at the “Experience Afghanistan” Gala August 15, 7:00 pm in New York City.  Plans are underway for a discussion event with the Woodrow Wilson Center for late August.  There are more details to follow in the weeks ahead.”

From Yolanda Lopez, Acting VOA Director’s Message to Staff – July 28, 2022


This agency is going to “commemorate” the one-year mark of the precipitous, chaotic fiasco of the U.S. 20-year involvement in Afghanistan with “a slate of special coverage and programs on VOA’s Afghan radio, satellite and digital platforms.”


“VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem, who reported on the fall of Kabul, is hoping to return to the Afghan capital to provide exclusive coverage on the Taliban’s return to power.”

From Yolanda Lopez, Acting VOA Director’s Message to Staff – July 28, 2022

It is just like VOA to turn one of the worst, strategic foreign policy failures in the nation’s history into some kind of celebration or mourning. In either case, it’s absurd, it’s surreal.

We don’t know who will be interested in the agency’s intended programming, but the likelihood will not be many people inside Afghanistan. They have plenty of other things to be concerned about with their daily lives under the Taliban. Nothing in VOA programming generated by a VOA reporter in Afghanistan is likely to improve their existence. It will only convince them that the U.S. government accepts the Taliban regime. It will destroy any hope that they may still have.

And the notion of sending a VOA “journalist” back into the lion’s den is absurd 

beyond words. The only “exclusive coverage” we see coming out of this is the 

Taliban using the VOA reporter to present its propaganda or

showing this individual being arrested and thrown in jail.

Or worse.

The Taliban are one of the most brutal regimes on the planet. 

This latest escapade on the part of the agency’s bureaucratic clown show is nuts, maybe beyond nuts.

Let’s remember a key point that we feel certain that the agency’s programming is NOT going to address:

In the Afghan debacle, the USAGM senior management left behind over 500 agency contractors, Green Card holders, and other dependents in Afghanistan. That is – abandoned, and well beyond the agency’s resources to get them all out and to some safer refuge. That’s the agency’s own contribution to the Afghan debacle.

And here is a cogent question:

How is it, with over twenty years of coverage in Afghanistan, did the agency’s “journalists” not see the resurgence of the Taliban coming? 

Where was USAGM reporting on that? The answer is: It appears that it was non-existent. Perhaps it did not comport with a narrative that otherwise portrayed the Afghan government as competent in dealing with the Taliban insurgency. This is an important issue, and it needs to be examined and investigated, though the story of the USAGM presence in Afghanistan and the stranding of so many disappeared from the headlines.

Wait, There’s More

All of this comes on top of another agency announcement from USAGM Acting CEO Kelu Chao, asking for employee “volunteers” to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in processing the flood of people entering the US on its southern border!

For years, USAGM has tried to cultivate a false narrative that it is “an independent news organization.” In truth, it is neither independent nor a news organization. It is 

an agency of the U.S. government and funded by U.S. taxpayers.

This latest announcement lays bare its false claims. The so-called “volunteers” are full-time Federal employees. Nothing less than that.

And then, too, what qualifies these employees to assist in vetting people being processed?

In a typical twist of irony, one needs to remember that this agency had its own security background check procedures yanked from its control and placed under 

another U.S. Federal government department!

Even if they do not perform law enforcement functions, these Voice of America journalists would be assisting what is a law enforcement department of the U.S. Federal government and then report on immigration, migration, and law enforcement issues. This is not what independent journalists do.

You’ve got to be kidding.

The Federalist

July 2022

READ on USAGM Watch: U.S. Agency for Global Media – The Absurd, The Surreal USAGM