Clarissa Ward’s new podcast ‘Tug of War’ is reporting on the fight for freedom in Afghanistan, Russia, and more

News November 6, 2021
Listen to ‘Tug of War’

In CNN’s newest podcast, Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is traveling to some of the most volatile regions of the planet to document the greatest power struggles happening in real time. In “Tug of War,” she is on the ground, speaking with the citizens fighting for freedom, fighting for their family, and preparing for the worst. You’ll hear firsthand accounts from the people of what is now the Taliban’s Afghanistan, Putin’s Russian dictatorship, Nicaragua, and the coup of Myanmar.

For 15 years, Ward has been reporting on conflict, terrorism, and war, namely the unequal battles of governments and terrorist groups against citizens and civilians. And she knows that authoritarianism is on the rise once again: full democracies are difficult to come by, the United States backsliding into a “flawed democracy” as of the past few years. She’s taking us around the world, to the people in the streets to those in power, to witness and report on the struggle, and that not all hope is lost.

The Taliban takes Afghanistan

Her first story: the United States removing its troops from Afghanistan, leaving it unable to face a Taliban takeover. Ward and her team arrived in Kabul on August 3rd, there to document the final wave of U.S. interference in the country as it came upon its self-imposed withdrawal deadline.

But opening the episode is a siren, and Ward explaining that she and her team are at a safehouse in Kabul. There had been an explosion, the plume of smoke visible from their vantage point. Ward goes on to explain what we already know: after the United States announced in April 2021 that they would remove all troops from Afghanistan by that September, the Taliban began a rapid defensive across the country. The explosion she heard was actually a car bomb set off outside the house of the acting defensive minister in an assassination campaign.

She can hear chanting from the people of Kabul from her safehouse rooftop, rejecting the Taliban’s power grasp. it was a final rallying cry, in Ward’s mind, but it was too little, too late. In just 10 days, the Taliban would take Kabul and effectively rule Afghanistan. In “Tug of War,” she explains how it got to this point: 20 years of war, thousands of civilian and military deaths, decimated in months. She interviews Afghani mothers fearing for their daughters, themselves, and their fellow women under Taliban rule, terrified to be stepping back in time.

Kandahar and Kabul

Ward traveled to Kandahar before it fell to the Taliban, the second-largest city in the country, where gunfire can be heard from Taliban snipers hiding in civilian homes. Ward speaks with soldiers holding the line in the city, who are unconcerned about their ability to fight back against the Taliban. Unfortunately, things would change fast. The swift fall of Kandahar reminded many of the Taliban takeover in the 1990s, when women were stripped of nearly all of their rights.

Ward reported from the Kabul airport, where people were frantically trying to board the last U.S. planes leaving the country. She speaks with the people there, asking for America’s help, flashing green cards and documents, trying to flee to safety. She even speaks with Taliban fighters at a checkpoint near the airport, but only after she covered her face.

Ward’s passion for humanitarianism is deeply evident in “Tug of War” in her harrowing but crucial investigations and on-the-ground interviews. It’s truthfully a difficult listen, from the interviews with those struggling to leave Afghanistan, to the interviews with those who have ill-fated hope that the Afghan military could hold up the Taliban. But Ward is a beacon of hope, providing transparency and empathy at a time when we need it most. With more episodes coming soon, “Tug of War” is sure to be one of the most far-reaching and significant pieces of reporting in recent times.

Listen to ‘Tug of War’

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