“The videos [below and at the CNN link] don’t provide incontrovertible proof of the trade, of which Moscow has categorically denied involvement,” cnn.com reports. “Yet they offer some of the first battlefield evidence of a flow of weapons that has the Afghan and American governments deeply concerned about Moscow’s intentions here.”
That’s one carefully worded non-disclaimer disclaimer. The story is based on an American general’s statement at an April press conference, raising the alarm about possible Russian interference in Afghanistan.
As the caption underneath the video below relates, “With Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at his side, Gen. John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan, wouldn’t provide specifics about Russia’s role in Afghanistan. But said he would ‘not refute’ that Moscow’s involvement includes giving weapons to the Taliban.”
Speaking of refutation, let’s take a closer look at the “evidence” CNN presents for this Russia -> Taliban arms connection:
In one video the Herat group are seen brandishing the guns, which they said were taken from the mainstream Taliban, led by Mullah Haibatullah, after that group attacked them. Eighteen of their rivals were killed in the attack and six were captured, they said.
“These weapons were given to the fighters of Mullah Haibatullah by the Russians via Iran,” said their deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi. He went on to repeat the often-heard rationale behind the arming — which Moscow denies — that the weapons were supplied to help the Taliban better fight ISIS.
“The Russians are giving them these weapons to fight ISIS in Afghanistan, but they are using them against us too,” he said.
The Taliban have Russian weapons? Only since ever. Sourced from wherever. Not to mention the fact that this “evidence” relies on second-hand information. Or the Russian weapons used by our Afghani allies. Or the American and Russian weapons the U.S. gave the Afghanis to fight the Russians, back when their military occupied the country.
The second video was shot nearer Kabul and features a masked Taliban fighter parading arms he says he obtained through the northern province of Kunduz. He said he did not pay for the weapons — insurgents often pay for guns with opium crops — and that his group received the guns via the Tajik border.
“These pistols have been brought to us recently,” he says. “These are made in Russia, and are very good stuff.”
How is “made in Russia” equal to “directly supplied by Russia”? This is, indeed, fake news. As CNN’s own report explains . . .
Weapons experts from the Small Arms Survey studied the videos and said there was little in them to directly tie the guns to the Russian state. The weapons were not particularly modern or rare, and even some of the more elaborate additions, like a JGBG M7 scope on one machine gun, were Chinese made and readily available online, they said.
Without anything like proof, this “Russian arming our enemies” story is without substance or context. I mean, what are the odds that America is arming Russia’s enemies? Again. Still.
The idea — and that’s all it is at the moment — that Russia is giving guns to combatants dedicated to killing U.S. soldiers, against U.S. interests, fits CNN’s ongoing narrative: President Trump secretly cut a deal with the Russians, aiding and abetting our once and future foe, who’s determined to undermine truth, justice and The American Way.
The article’s title: Videos suggest Russian government may be arming Taliban. I suggest CNN should operate according to a basic journalistic principle: treat everyone as a liar, find and report the truth. Simply repeating a rumor to perpetuate an agenda — without adopting a properly skeptical tone — is propaganda. Not news.