Joe Biden’s top defense policymaker and adviser came clean about a militant group mistreating U.S. citizens who are trying to flee Afghanistan, on Aug. 20.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed Taliban fighters physically and verbally abused Americans for trying to evacuate Kabul. The military veteran criticized the behavior as inadmissible.
“We are also aware that some people, including Americans, have been harassed and even beaten by the Taliban,” he said in a conference call with lawmakers according to Politico. “This is unacceptable and [we have] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader.”
The remarks seemingly contradicted President Biden’s earlier claim that U.S. citizens can freely pass through Taliban checkpoints and enter Hamid Karzai International Airport. The Democrat had promised Americans in Kabul his administration “will get you home.”
Austin clarified to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, and others on the conference call that only some U.S. citizens are reaching the airport.
“With the exception of those cases, we continue to see Americans and appropriately credentialed Afghans continue to move through,” he said according to the publication.
Several Republican lawmakers believe the words offer little comfort for ongoing safety concerns about Americans and Afghan allies. They accused the Biden administration of providing conflicting information, and lacking a realistic plan to evacuate citizens.
“We should at least be honest with ourselves about what is going on,” one GOP representative said according to the New York Post.
“We were told [by Blinken] the Taliban will not allow terrorists to operate,” a House member said according to the paper. “Their number two [in charge] is an al-Qaeda commander, and they themselves are a terrorist organization.”
“The Taliban are roaming the streets, beating Americans, Afghans and our allies,” another added. “That is who we are negotiating with to get our people out and putting our faith in–it is insane.”
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) openly claimed Biden’s messaging contradicts several mainstream media reports.
“There remains a massive gap between the message that President Biden shared with the American people and the reality on the ground,” he said. “He says Americans are not having trouble accessing the airport, while the media is reporting of the Taliban roaming the streets beating Americans and our allies.”
Gonzalez is also concerned about the president’s lack of accountability, and believes more allies should question Biden’s actions.
“If we are going to get our people home while protecting our Afghan partners we need to be clear-eyed about the challenge,” he said. “Now is not the time to try to win a press conference, we need to win the mission and get our people home while providing safety to our partners.”
Even Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and fellow Democrats want to know about any preparations to extend security beyond the airport gates. They also wish to be informed about potential deadline extensions to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies after Aug. 31.
Blinken and Austin also did not state how many Americans are still in the Middle Eastern country.
“We are finding out where they are and if the want to leave,” Blinken said. “We will get back to you with more information.”
Congress has increasingly expressed frustration about the lack of specific information provided since the Afghan government collapsed on Aug. 15.
“[Blinken] does not really answer anything with any specificity, and says nice things like I am talking to our allies and I am having a lot of phone calls,” a different lawmaker said. “In terms of what is happening on the ground, he does not seem to have a grasp of it.”
The representative believes only the defense secretary truly knows what is happening in Afghanistan.
“The person who does is Austin but there is a lot of things he is saying that I find disappointing while we still have Americans on the ground, [and] we still have Afghan partners struggling to get out of the country, we still have our allies who are there,” he said. “The tactical decisions that they are making I disagree with.”
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) suspects this lack of transparency originates from fear.
“My takeaway from Biden’s speech and the briefing from Austin and Blinken is that these so-called leaders fear the Taliban much more than the Taliban fears them,” he said. “They cannot connect the dots without admitting failure for themselves and Biden. That is why this briefing seems to be like an alternate reality.”