The Secretary of Defense and ground reports contradict President Joe Biden’s comments on Friday that American citizens can safely pass the Taliban and enter the airport.
This statement alone from Austin contradicts a lot of what Biden just said at the White House about Americans not having a hard time getting to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) August 20, 2021
“To the best of our knowledge – Taliban checkpoints – they are letting through people showing American passports. Now it’s a different question when they get in the rush and crowd of all the folks just outside the wall near the airport,” Biden hedged when asked in the press conference.
But Biden’s story does not square with media reports on the ground or with his own Defense Secretary, who said Friday Americans have been abused on the ground.
“Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a briefing call with House lawmakers just now said Americans have been beaten by the Taliban in Kabul, according to multiple people on the call. Austin called it ‘unacceptable,'” Politico reported.
The Washington Post reported Friday “the militants had set up checkpoints and deployed dozens of fighters to block roads leading to the airport.”
When the WaPo reporter finally reached the gate at the airport by favor of a British officer:
The American soldiers guarding the gate were surprised to see cars on a street that was supposed to be closed to traffic. “I held my press badge against the windshield, nodded to the guard tower and got out of the car, holding up my hands. After a quick exchange on his radio, he allowed us through.”
CNN reporting on the ground confirms WaPo’s reports, which indicate the Taliban fighters are blocking “access” to the airport “with gunfire and violence.” In another incident, the Taliban even attacked CNN’s camera crew.
“It’s definitely chaotic,” Clarissa Ward stated on the ground. “It’s definitely dangerous.”
CNN's @ClarissaWard reports on the hurdles Americans and Afghans have been facing trying to get to Kabul's airport as Taliban fighters attempt to block access with gunfire and violence.
— CNN (@CNN) August 19, 2021
Our story from the madness outside Kabul airport where we witnessed Taliban fighters whipping people, shooting into the crowd and amazing producer @BrentSwailsCNN had a very close call https://t.co/YJZKCdCFAa
— Clarissa Ward (@clarissaward) August 19, 2021
Shots ring out behind @clarissaward – as she stands less than 200 yards from the entrance of the Kabul airport.
"It's definitely chaotic, she says. "It's definitely dangerous." pic.twitter.com/3iNgULO0fO
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) August 18, 2021
ABC’s David Muir asked a reporter Friday on the ground if President Biden was telling the truth about Americans being able to reach the airport.
“The president said he has no intelligence that the Americans have not been able to get [to the Kabul airport]. The question, obviously–does that square with reporting on the ground?” Muir asked.
“I mean–just totally not,” the ABC News reporter responded.
Follow Wendell Husebø on Twitter @WendellHusebø