Just in time for the November elections, a new MSM theme is emerging: Iraq's not the only mess - Afghanistan's in trouble too. Just a couple days I described here the Pentagon's systematic rebuttal of Newsweek's hyper-negative portrayal of the situation in Afghanistan in its article "The Rise of Jihadistan."
One of Newsweek's "news partners" just happens to be NBC, and sure enough, NBC's 'Today' show ran a segment this morning recycling many of the charges contained in the Newsweek piece. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda were depicted as resurgent, with violence up, the opium trade flourishing, and President Karzai's influence largely limited to Kabul.
But note the potentially deceptive way the situation was presented. Narrating the segment, NBC's Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said that "suicide bombings targeting civilians are up 400%, car bombs doubled in the past year." Perhaps. But from what base? Have suicide bombings gone from 100 a year to 500 - or from 5 to 25? Jim didn't say.
In any case, Mik was quick to paint the grimmest possible portrait . . . and to tie it to the Bush administration's Iraq policy:
Miklaszewski: "Just where and how did things go so wrong? Military experts argue that the Bush administration diverted much-needed troops and resources from Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden to fight the war in Iraq."
Mik then brought in Michael O'Hanlon - a fellow of the Brookings Institution and faculty member at Princeton and Columbia - to second his notion: "The kind of effort that might have been forthcoming to beef up that initial US-led invasion force was never there because we were distracted by Iraq."
In fact, as documented in my earlier item on the Newsweek article, the Pentagon points out that at the time the Iraq war began in March 2003, the U.S. had about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan. Today, there are more than 21,000 U.S. forces either in Afghanistan or directly supporting missions there, and many thousands more civilians engaged in the reconstruction effort.
While passing along the expression by US military officials of confidence in ultimate victory, Miklaszewski ended with this dreary assessment: "for now total victory appears as distant and remote as Afghanistan itself."
All that was missing was the ending tag: "This message brought to you by the DNC."