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Tempest Over 'Three Cups Of Tea' And Author Mortenson


Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute have sought to "promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute have sought to "promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan."

We're currently looking into the CBS "60 Minutes" allegations of lies, mismanagement, and incompetence by "Three Cups Of Tea" author and Central Asia Institute founder Greg Mortenson. (The video is here -- go here if the CBS site crashes you like it does me -- and the transcript here.)

The U.S. publisher, Viking, is said to be looking into the accusations.

In responses to the "60 Minutes" queries published on his Central Asia Institute website, Mortenson stands behind his claims at the heart of some of the most strident accusations of falsification.

One of Mortenson's fiercest critics is another noted author and fellow mountaineer, Jon Krakauer, who reportedly donated tens of thousands of dollars to Mortenson's early efforts but split over his claim that funds were being "misused." (He describes Mortenson's efforts as "good intentions gone very wrong.") Krakauer figures prominently in the "60 Minutes" report, and has authored an online publication called "Three Cups Of Deceit: How Greg Mortensen, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way." The pdf of that report was being made available for free online until April 20 at www.byliner.com.

Our piece will be out soon, but we're waiting for the results of more of our own reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In the meantime, we spoke to a notable authority on the region about the accusations. Praise from author Ahmed Rashid ("Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia" and "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil And Fundamentalism In Central Asia" and "Descent Into Chaos: The U.S. And The Disaster In Pakistan, Afghanistan, And Central Asia" and you-get-the-picture...) is featured on the first page of "Three Cups Of Tea."

Rashid has known Mortenson and his work for many years. He tells RFE/RL correspondent Abubakar Siddique that it's hard to believe the charges being leveled against him:

"I can well believe that there might be exaggeration on his part for some of the things that he claims to have done. But, I think, his mission is absolutely extraordinary and that is what we should keep in mind....

"I don't know the facts of this, but '60 Minutes' clearly would have checked their facts and they would not have done this program without checking their facts very thoroughly. But I must say that whatever false [sic] Greg Mortenson might have done, I think still what he has done for education, for the children of Pakistan [and] Afghanistan, for girls' schools -- he has done an incredible amount. He has brought education and development to the forefront for the American public -- for the American armed forces."

-- Andy Heil

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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