A few days ago, President Joe Biden denied that Americans in Afghanistan were facing any trouble getting to Kabul Airport. Biden claimed that Washington had received “no indication” of such complications. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has now contradicted the president’s claims at least twice.
According to a recent report from Politico, Austin admitted, in a congressional meeting with lawmakers, that some Americans attempting to leave the country have faced violence at the hands of Taliban militants.
“We’re also aware that some people, including Americans, have been harassed and even beaten by the Taliban…. This is unacceptable and [we] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader… With the exception of those cases, we continue to see Americans and appropriately credentialed Afghans continue to move through,” Austin said to lawmakers, which anonymous sources who participated in the briefing told the media outlet.
In an interview with ABC, Austin initially said that the Taliban were allowing American passport holders safely through to the airport. When pressed by the host, Austin replied that “there’s no such thing as an absolute.” He said that Americans have had “some tough encounters” with the Taliban. The Defense Secretary claimed that as they learn about incidents where Americans were facing trouble getting to the airport, Washington is engaging with the Taliban leadership to make sure that “our people with the appropriate credentials” get through the checkpoints.
Republican Representative Carol Miller recently posted the recording of a call she received from an American woman trapped in Afghanistan. Miller noted that despite the danger to herself, the woman wanted to share the audio. The lawmaker insisted that Washington guarantee the safety of Americans and its allies before it is too late.
“Hour by hour, it’s getting more difficult… Even when the cars pass by I feel like they’re gonna stop by that door out there, the Taliban, and they’re gonna come and they’re gonna kill us… I’m really scared,” the woman said, crying in between words.
Biden’s claim that Washington hasn’t received any indication of Americans being unable to reach the airport safely was also criticized by ABC senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell who said that the president’s statements do not match with what’s happening on the ground in Kabul. Pannell also stated that some Americans have been beaten by Taliban terrorists.
“It just seems the reality and the rhetoric are miles apart… I’m not quite sure what advice the president is receiving… The truth on the ground is that these people, who are in fear of their lives, can’t get through [to the airport],” Pannell said.