Fox News tries to ignore Trump getting the Taliban leader released in 2018, and pin all the blame on Obama releasing somebody else

Fox anchor Bret Baier highlighted a 2014 prisoner release under Obama, then ignorantly asked a Pakistani ambassador about Mullah Baradar’s 2018 release, “Why did that happen?”

Fox News has been relentlessly pushing blame for the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan onto the Obama and Biden administrations, while skipping over key decisions that former President Donald Trump made in negotiating with the Taliban for the U.S. pullout. In one key example, they are highlighting former President Barack Obama’s release of Taliban figure Khairullah Khairkhwa from Guantanamo Bay in 2014 as part of a prisoner exchange for captured American soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

Fox is now billing Khairkhwa as the “reported mastermind” of the Taliban’s takeover of the country. But the network is also leaving out something else: the fact that in 2018, the Trump administration secured the release from a Pakistani prison of the man now widely expected to be the president of the Taliban’s new government, Abdul Ghani Baradar.

On Tuesday’s edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, the anchor declared: “There was a lot of discussion back then in 2014, under President Obama, about whether or not this deal would put Americans in danger. Would these individuals return to the battlefield after they were set free from Guantanamo Bay? Well, here's the answer to that question.”

MacCallum never acknowledged Trump’s role in releasing Baradar, now the Taliban’s top leader. Moreover, a chyron in the segment claimed, “Gitmo Detainee in Bergdahl Swap Now Leads Taliban,” though Khairkhwa is not the group’s actual leader. (On a side note: Many conservatives had spent years calling for Obama to secure the release of Bergdahl from his captivity by the Taliban, and attacking him for having failed to do so — only to turn around and denounce Bergdahl as a deserter once the deal to free him was accomplished.)

But perhaps the most cartoonish example of this came from Fox’s purported “straight news” show Special Report with Bret Baier, in which the anchor said, “One of those negotiators is a familiar foe to the United States — and specifically, President Biden,” setting up a video segment from Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin.

“The Biden administration is now left to deal with some of the same leaders the Obama-Biden administration released from Guantanamo Bay, including Khairullah Khairkhwa, one of the five Taliban commanders released from Gitmo in 2014 as part of the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap,” Griffin said. “They quickly set up an embassy in Qatar, and eventually were among the leaders that the Trump administration began exit talks with, and now orchestrated the overthrow of the Afghan government.”

Griffin later noted that another prominent Taliban official had previously been released from Guantanamo Bay by the George W. Bush administration, and also that “the Trump administration forced the Afghan government of President Ghani to release 5,000 hardened Taliban prisoners.” But her report still did not mention the Trump administration’s specific involvement in Pakistan’s release of Baradar.

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Citation From the August 17, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier

Later in the program, Baier actually did acknowledge Baradar’s release — but in a way that seemingly attempted to pin it entirely on Pakistan. Speaking with Munir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Baier spoke of that country’s “on-and-off relationship with the Taliban, sometimes very on,” and asked why its government had released Baradar.

Akram simply replied that Baradar was released “at the request of the United States.” Baier acted as if he did not even know this about the negotiations, a fact that was public record and openly acknowledged since it happened nearly three years ago.

And if Baier had wanted an answer, he could have simply read the lengthy piece on Baradar published Monday by Fox’s corporate cousin, The Wall Street Journal, which said right in the third paragraph: “He returns to power 20 years later after the U.S. lobbied for his release when the Trump administration launched talks with the Taliban.” (The Journal’s news pages are routinely ignored and contradicted by both its opinion section as well as Fox’s own “straight news” coverage.)

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Citation From the August 17, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier

BAIER: Pakistan, Mr. Ambassador, has had an on and off relationship with the Taliban, sometimes very on. And you've had a number of years where you provided financial support to the Taliban. In 2018, Mullah Baradar, the new Taliban leader, was released from prison in Pakistan. Why did that happen? And has your relationship with the Taliban changed since this takeover?

AKRAM: Well, you know Mullah Baradar was imprisoned by Pakistan at a certain stage in the struggle, and he was released at the request of the United States. In order to form —

BAIER: In that negotiation?

AKRAM: Absolutely. In order to lead the negotiations in Doha, we were requested specifically to release Baradar, and that's what we did at the request of the United States. And he has led the negotiations since then, and you have seen the role that he has played since then.

Then on Tuesday night, Fox host Sean Hannity told his audience that Khairkhwa’s release during the Obama-Biden administration “ought to get your blood boiling.” Hannity later interviewed Trump himself, who at one point acknowledged Baradar as the top Taliban leader and boasted of once having “a very strong conversation” with him — though of course, the subject of Baradar’s release from prison at the urging of the Trump administration never came up.

And on Wednesday morning’s edition of The Faulkner Focus, anchor Harris Faulkner highlighted “the growing anger among lawmakers” about Khairkhwa’s release during the Obama administration.

Ironically enough, the closest that Faulkner came to acknowledging the parallel with Baradar’s release during the Trump administration was when she played a clip in which White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that “in prior negotiations and commitments made during the Trump administration, there were thousands of individuals who were released,” and that the Biden administration is now focused on monitoring the situation.

Faulkner introduced the clip by claiming that Psaki “appeared to deflect” on Khairkhwa’s release, then responded: “It’s like that old song — it wasn’t us.”

The truth is, many people are at fault for the fall of Afghanistan, starting with early mistakes under the Bush administration setting up an unwinnable war that only continued further under Obama. The Trump administration then made deals with the Taliban that would effectively hand control of the country over upon the U.S. pullout, which has now come to pass on Biden’s watch.