National Security

CNN Makes More Unsubstantiated Claims About Russia

“In one breath, the Cable News Network is saying that the two videos aren’t proof of the crime, but they are evidence of the crime happening as exactly as they are reporting.”

Less than a month after their apology for publishing unverified information about Russian activities as news, CNN is now claiming that they have video footage that proves Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan. While there have been discussions about the possibility of Russia arming insurgents in Afghanistan as they have in Syria, the claims that CNN is making about having conclusive evidence is troubling. In light of the implications of such a claim, as well as their recent track record in reporting accurately, one would think that the network would proceed more cautiously.

CNN itself says that the two videos “don’t provide incontrovertible proof,” but that they provide “some of the first battlefield evidence of a flow of weapons” from Russia to the Taliban. In one breath, the Cable News Network is saying that the two videos aren’t proof of the crime, but they are evidence of the crime happening as exactly as they are reporting.

What the video actually shows is members of the Taliban in possession of weapons that are of Russian design. However, as anyone with operational knowledge can tell you, possessing an AK-47 or Dragunov is not proof of direct Russian involvement. These weapons are mass produced all around the world and are used by numerous insurgent groups, as well as legitimate military forces.

Making such accusations without actual evidence is not only irresponsible of CNN, but shockingly incompetent. Imagine if a major news channel in the 1980s had insisted that they uncovered video evidence that the USSR had armed the Irish Republican Army. The IRA was indeed in possession of Soviet bloc weapons, so following CNN’s logic, they must have been armed by Moscow. Yet, the IRA had arranged to receive many of these weapons through Libya. An irresponsible report like this could have had disastrous consequences at an international level. Falsely accusing the Russian government of arming insurgents who had killed members of the British military would be wildly inappropriate for a news outlet. Yet CNN is doing exactly this by positioning a story as being proof of a narrative that they wish to tell, instead of reporting the facts as they actually are.

Here are the facts as we now know them: CNN has acquired two “exclusive” videos that show members of the Taliban armed with weapons that are neither exceptionally modern, nor exceptionally rare. In fact, some of the equipment featured in the videos are not even Russian made, but of Chinese origin (and available for sale online). They also claim to have conflicting reports from two notoriously unreliable and dishonest Taliban groups, in which some members claim that the weapons were “from the Russians.” Finally, we have General John Nicholson refusing to refute the possibility that Russia could be arming the Taliban. The Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan said that it would be “fair to assume” that the Russians “may be providing some sort of support” to the Taliban.

Is it possible that Russia has provided the Taliban with weapons? Absolutely. Despite being former enemies, Russia could see ISIS-Khorasan as a larger threat to the region. Would it be foolish for U.S. military leaders to dismiss this possibility? Absolutely. General Nicholson is doing the right thing by assuming that this could be a potential threat on the battlefield, as those weapons could kill Coalition Forces as easily as they do ISIS. However, CNN’s refusal to report the facts is foolish. Instead of letting the facts speak for themselves, one of the hallmarks of journalistic integrity, they have woven an inaccurate and unproven narrative around the facts, despite what the facts themselves say.

Chris Erickson

Chris Erickson is an OpsLens Contributor and former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier. He spent over 10 years in the Army and performed multiple combat deployments, as well as various global training missions throughout the world. He is still active in the veteran community and currently works in the communications industry. Follow him @EricksonPrime on Twitter.

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.