On Friday, President Joe Biden gave a media briefing on the fall of Afghanistan in which he came across as a man who knew so little, he hadn’t watched the evening news or was willing to bet you hadn’t seen it.
He said Americans were having no issues getting “through to the airport” in Kabul: “We’ve made an agreement with the Taliban thus far, they’ve allowed them to go through.” The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake called this “one of [Biden’s] most puzzling moments” since the fall of Afghanistan and noted Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in a briefing later in the day, acknowledged the Taliban was beating Americans trying to get through checkpoints.
Finally, there was his answer when asked what hunted Afghan allies of the United States should do in order to get out of the country. Biden’s response was essentially a recipe for their capture: Try to make it to the airport, but we’re not going to do too much to help you get there.
Shortly after his remark about Americans having no issue getting through to the airport in Kabul, Biden was asked a follow-up question by ABC News reporter Stephanie Ramos about “Abdul, an interpreter who was on the front lines with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.”
Abdul had been interviewed in July by Martha Raddatz of ABC News. Now, Ramos said, the outlet had “received a photo of Taliban militants coming to the door of his home, literally hunting him down.”
“Thankfully, he was able to escape, but he is obviously still in mortal danger,” she said. “What would be your message to Abdul, his wife, and his three young daughters?”
“We want you to be able to get to the airport, contact us,” Biden said. “We’ll see whatever we can do to get you there. We’ve got to get you out. We are committed to deal with you, your wife, and your child, to get all three of you out of Afghanistan. That’s the commitment.”
Well, not quite the commitment.
Next up was Meredith Lee of PBS News Hour. “You mentioned just now using every resource available for evacuations,” she said. “Why haven’t you ordered the military to expand the security perimeter around the Kabul airport?
“Do you have any plans to do so, giving that will likely require more U.S. troops? And are you considering rescue operations to recover Americans and Afghan allies stuck behind Taliban checkpoints?”
“The last answer is yes to the last question,” Biden said. “We’re continuing every opportunity and every means by which we could get folks to the airport. That’s number one.”
But again, not quite every opportunity and every means.
“Number two, the reason why we have not gone out and started and set up a perimeter way outside of the airport in Kabul is that it’s likely to draw an awful lot of unintended consequences in terms of people who in fact are not part of the Taliban,” Biden said.
“We’ve been in constant contact with the Taliban leadership on the ground in Kabul, as well as the Taliban leadership at Dalai. And we’ve been coordinating what we’re doing.”
So expanding the perimeter around the Kabul airport is going to create “an awful lot of unintended consequences in terms of people who in fact are not part of the Taliban?” As in, they get to the airport?
The Taliban 2.0 PR offensive — “We’re not your dad’s brutal ultra-Islamist insurgency!” — has predictably proved to be false within a matter of days.
The U.K.’s Guardian on Wednesday reported, “Taliban promises of ‘safe passage’ to the Kabul airport for Afghans trying to flee the country have been undermined by reports of women and children being beaten and whipped as they try to pass through checkpoints set up by the militants.”
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said “there have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten … We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days.”
He added that making sure there are open routes to Hamid Karzai International Airport represented an “hour-by-hour issue … It’s something we are clear-eyed about and very focused on holding the Taliban accountable to follow through on its commitment.”
How? They won’t expand the perimeter around the airport. Their accountability plan for the Taliban seems to be to issue the terrorists a stern warning whenever those seeking “safe passage” are beaten and turned back.
Politico’s Andrew Desiderio, reporting on Austin and Pentagon press secretary John Kirby contradicting Biden on his remarks about the Taliban offering safe passage almost as soon as the president spoke them, made it clear their immediate reaction was to express extreme displeasure:
Austin’s full quote on Taliban beatings during the House briefing, relayed to us by multiple sources:
“We’re also aware that some ppl including Americans have been harassed & even beaten by the Taliban. This is unacceptable & [we] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader.”
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) August 20, 2021
The problem is that America’s secretary of defense telling the Taliban its treatment of those trying to reach the Kabul airport is “unacceptable” plus $8.99 will get you a) a month’s subscription to Netflix’s basic plan and b) not a thing more. America has given the country over to the wolves and let it happen over the space of a week. How are our allies, either in the country or outside of it, supposed to take anything we say about Afghanistan seriously ever again?
Biden will help our allies get to the airport … somehow. It won’t be by extending the perimeter. We can’t send in rescue crews for every one of them. But the president assures us all he’s “continuing every opportunity and every means by which we could get folks to the airport.”
In the meantime, according to a report from Euronews, The Associated Press and AFP, the Taliban has been “intensifying a search for people who worked with US and NATO forces, a confidential United Nations document says, despite the militants vowing no revenge against opponents.”
The insurgents reportedly have “priority lists” of Afghan allies of the United States they want to arrest — and presumably not for desultory questioning. This is, for men like Abdul, a matter of life or death. We all know this, because we watch the news — something Biden apparently can’t bring himself to do.
The words coming out of Joe Biden’s mouth when it comes to people like Abdul are these: “We’ll see whatever we can do to get you there. We’ve got to get you out.” The policies he’s enumerating, however, implicitly say this: “You’re on your own.”
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