Atlanta, GA – In just the latest example of CNN operating as a deep state propaganda outlet, on July 25, the cable news network published a bombastic report; releasing two exclusive videos intimating that the Russian government was covertly arming the Taliban, which has returned to significant prominence in Afghanistan since the 2014 cessation of NATO combat operations.
The large-scale anti-Russia propaganda operation, meant to indoctrinate Americans into a mindset that demonizes Russia as “the enemy,” and Putin as a dictator, has been pushed en masse to the American public at a steady rate since the end of the 2016 election cycle.
The explosive CNN report, which was widely reported across the media landscape, noted that two separate groups of Taliban fighters have received “improved weaponry … that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government.” The weaponry reportedly included Kalashnikov rifles, heavy machine guns, and sniper rifles. And while many of the weapons in the video appear to be of Russian origin, there is nothing to connect the Russian government to the weapons.
While the news made headlines and was shared widely across social media — the problem is that CNN’s report has lots of bark and no bite. Aside from a flashy headline, the report provided no evidence of the Russian government providing or transferring weapons to the Taliban. This was established according to weapons experts from U.S. Special Operations Command and several non-governmental conflict arms organizations.
“I’ve watched the video and frankly can’t see anything that is particularly unusual,” James Bevan, a weapons specialist, and director of Conflict Armament Research Ltd, told Task & Purpose in an email. “There are Russian weapons, and derivatives of those weapons manufactured in other states, circulating among state and non-state groups in every country in that region.”
According to the report by Task and Purpose:
The weapons experts consulted by Task & Purpose identified the weapons as Kalashnikov variants that have become pervasive among irregular forces; several U.S.-made M249 Squad Automatic Weapons that fire belt-fed 5.56×45mm NATO rounds, including a mid-90s variant with a long barrel and fixed rifle stock and the lightweight MK-49 paratrooper variant with a stub barrel; the TT-30 Tokarev pistol that’s been a staple of the Russian military since the 1930s, and the Soviet-made 7.62 mm general-purpose PK machine gun that’s been in service since 1961.
None of these weapons touted by the Taliban in the CNN video appear particularly modern, and all but the M249 are regular fixtures of the illicit small arms markets that accounted for 60 percent of the weapons flowing into and out of Afghanistan in the decades leading up to the U.S.-led invasion in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“I suspect after years in Afghanistan, these are easy to get,” Capt. Jason Salata, said.
Additionally, the CNN report never establishes any type of chain of custody between Russia and the Taliban. Perhaps more importantly, they never noted that one of the Taliban groups had pillaged the equipment from a rival Taliban faction, while the other received a shipment of arms from across the Tajikistan border. CNN admits that the videos presented as “suggesting” a link between the Taliban and Moscow “don’t provide incontrovertible proof of the trade.”
Yet, somehow, they still attempt to stir the anti-Russia media pot and suggest the weapons could be the work of the Russian government. In reality, however, these types of weapons are readily available on the black market across the globe.
“There is nothing immediately visible to suggest the weapons are new or any indication (from the footage) that they are all of the same type and origin,” according to Bevan. “Governments that supply rebel and insurgent forces rarely supply new weapons and frequently refrain from supplying their own weapons stocks. This makes any connection between the manufacturing country and the supplier country problematic.”
Thus the CNN report, which notes that the weaponry appears “stripped of any means of identifying their origin,” essentially relies on the claims of a few Taliban members as the basis for the entire report.
“Unfortunately, CNN did not fully profile erased markings and other efforts to sanitize the weapons,” Bevan added. “This would be a clear indication of organized, state involvement, but also would be unlikely to incriminate any party without further evidence.”
In typical propaganda fashion, every arms expert in the CNN story was a Pentagon or Afghan government official, except for Benjamin King from the Small Arms Survey independent research group, who bluntly told CNN that the photos and videos he was given to analyze contained virtually no evidence of a recent arms transfer, let alone being able to attribute it to a specific state – such as Russia.
“[CNN] made some jumps that you certainly can’t make from the weapons themselves,” King told Task & Purpose. “I certainly wouldn’t have made the claim that they were new imports. The generic Tokarev pistols and PK machine guns are old and could have been there for a long time. One of the rifles was an AK-74, so it could have been there for the last 40 years or so.”
Of course, the U.S. military need only look in the mirror should they want to understand the flow of foreign armaments into Afghanistan, as a declassified Pentagon audit from 2016 revealed that almost half of the 1.5 million firearms supplied to the Iraqi and Afghani military, including almost 1 million M4 and M16s, have turned up ‘missing’ due to shoddy record keeping and regulations.
Even more damning, in 2014, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released a report that found that nearly 43% of arms provided to the Afghan National Security Forces likely ended up in the hands of ISIS or the Taliban.
In just the past few weeks, American and Afghan military personnel have faced off with modern weaponry and equipment in enemy hands. Afghan security forces are increasingly facing off against Taliban fighters armed with M4 carbines outfitted with night vision, infrared laser sights and Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight scopes, according to a July 25 report in the Military Times.
Additionally, a recent propaganda video released by the Taliban appeared to show an FN SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) 7.62mm rifle decked out with a AN/PEQ 5 visible laser, which was likely procured during an ambush or raid on a weapons depot.
“Afghanistan is swimming in guns,” King told Task & Purpose. “These things are expected to show up everywhere.”
Many of these weapons are not Russian made, but instead, are usually deployed by Western militaries — and, like everything else in Afghanistan, they end up in Taliban hands sooner rather than later.
But CNN’s report conveniently fails to mention any of this, and attempts to prop up the demonization campaign against Russia, as a likely pretext to gain public support in the methodical and ongoing movement towards a direct conflict with the Russia.