Looks like the liberal media is not dutifully lining up behind President Biden's announced decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11th of this year--which not coincidentally marks the 20th anniversary of our military presence there.
Yesterday, we noted Morning Joe foreign policy maven Richard Haass criticizing Biden's withdrawal decision, predicting it would lead to a "human rights tragedy" while permitting terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al Qaeda to establish bases of operation there.
Today, it was CNN's turn to express surprising skepticism about Biden's planned withdrawal. Most striking was the statement by Nick Paton Walsh, a senior CNN international correspondent. Reporting live from Kabul on the occasion of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit there, Paton Walsh said:
"I think they’re being left in a lurch to some degree, some would argue here."
It was an odd turn of phrase. Paton Walsh began by expressing what seemed to be his own opinion, "I think they're being left in the lurch," but then tried to cover his tracks by adding, "some would argue." In another implied criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the matter, Paton Walsh mentioned that "the Afghan government didn’t get an enormous heads-up of this announcement of a full withdrawal."
There was no mistaking the segment's generally skeptical tone about the withdrawal. Co-host John Berman said that while the withdrawal, "will end America’s involvement in the longest war, but it absolutely doesn’t end the crisis in that country."
And then there was substitute host Poppy Harlow. Interviewing Democrat Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a supporter of Biden's decision, Harlow's focus was the threat to women's rights given the prospect of the Taliban resuming control of the country..
Rather than asking about the US reaction should a terrorist strike be launched from Afghanistan after our exit, Harlow demanded of Coons to know what the United States would do if women's rights are violated. Coons ducked a direct answer, saying instead that there are human rights violations "all over the world," citing in particular actions by China and Russia.
CNN's criticism of Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal illustrates a dilemma for the liberal media: what to do when the instinct to back Biden collides with its support for causes held particularly dear, like women's rights?
PS: On The Lead with Jake Tapper on Wednesday, Paton Walsh took a different tone toward Biden:
WALSH: It means a very turbulent few months ahead and when you heard Joe Biden speaking there, there was deep eloquence of a decision that's clearly been formulating in him over decades.
He was never a fan of long-term investment here because he saw the problems here too deep-seeded, often, to be fixed. And if you look at where Americans has tried in the last 20 years, Jake, as you've seen, they've tried, frankly, everything -- from invading to losing to surging to drawing down to camped terrorism to only to peace talks. The only thing they haven't tried is not being part of the problem anymore.
And so, there was an element I think of the commander in chief there, knowing that the decision he had to take would lead to bad consequences, but he had the responsibility to have a strategy and to know frankly when to stop maybe, to have the courage to call that particular moment.
Here's the morning transcript.
8:17 am EDT
JOHN BERMAN: Secretary of State Antony Blinken touching down overnight in Afghanistan. His visit comes after President Biden announced that US troops will be out of that country by September 11th, ending America’s longest war. Our Nick Paton Walsh is live in Kabul with the latest. And Nick, as you pointed out, this will end America’s involvement in the longest war, but it absolutely doesn’t end the crisis in that country.
NICK PATON WALSH: Yeah. I think Antony Blinken will get a taste of that during his meetings today, most of them already concluding. You can see some of the pool footage. His meeting with President Ashraf Ghani will probably, in private, conveyed Afghanistan’s anger, really.
I think they’re being left in a lurch to some degree, some would argue here. Before this meeting between Ashraf Ghani and Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State had written some stern letters to the president asking him to get on board the peace process. And it does appear also, too, from talking to sources here that the Afghan government didn’t get an enormous heads-up of this announcement of a full withdrawal was coming.
. . .
An interesting moment, too, when Antony Blinken was meeting some women's rights activists here. He was told frankly by one of them that their views for the future here were deeply pessimistic. He will get a taste, I think, of just how worried people are here about what comes next. The broader atmospheric fear here of increased violence, possibly Americans targeted, and quite will the peace talks even take off. They're supposed to start Saturday a week. Antony Blinken will be hearing all of that now. Poppy.
POPPY HARLOW: You have applauded the president’s move to pull out all US troops by September 11th. You know your fellow, some fellow Democrats in your chamber are worried. Jean Shaheen [Dem senator from NH] is very worried, particularly about what this means for women in Afghanistan, given the Taliban.
. . .
What do you believe the US will or should do if women once again are put in this situation, and are targeted, and their human rights violated by the Taliban? What does the US do if that happens again like it did?
CHRIS COONS: Poppy, one of our challenges is in the world environment the United States faces today, we have an aggressive ascendant, China, and Russia. China's committing genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. They're repressing Hong Kong. There are human rights violations all over the world. And keeping thousands of American troops in Afghanistan for another decade was a cost that President Biden looked at and concluded was too high a cost to pay.