The White House now claims that they have control of the airport in Kabul. That may be true, but the Taliban have full control of everything right up to the doors, as Clarissa Ward reports this morning for CNN. The scene is “mayhem, nuts,” and it got even worse for Ward and her team as they tried to finish their report:
It got worse after this, Clarissa reports.
"Two Taliban fighters just came up with their pistols, and they were ready to pistol whip [our producer]. We had to intervene and scream… I've covered all sorts of crazy situations. This was mayhem. This was nuts." https://t.co/S9dd8z1cSA
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) August 18, 2021
“This is important to see,” John Berman comments near the end, “because what we are seeing now is the disconnect between what the United States says is happening and needs to happen, with what can happen.” Ward responds, “That’s what’s so crazy, John.” It’s certainly one crazy point among many.
This contradicts the White House’s pronouncements about security at the airport, as well as the ability of people to get access to the outbound flights. Ward agrees, but it’s also that we’re discussing two different issues. The White House is talking about security inside the airport, which apparently has improved significantly:
At kabul airport, military side, more order than before. Evacuations picking up. Seeing more Afghan families being taken through. Planes taking off. Base well guarded.
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) August 18, 2021
Ward is reporting on security around the airport, which is only improving if you’re looking at it from the perspective of the Taliban. They’ve cut off access to the airport for most Afghans, and almost certainly the Americans trapped in Kabul or thereabouts. The Wall Street Journal reports on that problem this morning, noting that some of the flights now have empty seats on takeoff:
Afghans and Westerners stranded in Kabul after Sunday’s Taliban takeover started trickling into the city’s U.S.-controlled airport for evacuation flights, but entry remained extremely difficult, with Taliban checkpoints on most access roads and no clear system to bring people in. …
At Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, crowds of Afghans continued to gather along the perimeter, trying to flee the country. U.S. Marines focused mostly on keeping people from coming close. As a result, many of the evacuation flights continued leaving with empty seats even as tens of thousands of Afghans who worked with Western governments clamored for a way out before the Taliban track them down.
“The situation is very bad at the gate,” said Lida Ahmadi, who applied for a special immigrant visa for Afghans who had helped the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. “I slept on the road last night. Now, after two nights and two days at the gate, we’ve finally got the chance to come in. I am so happy now.”
Many others haven’t made it, so far. An Australian C-130, which can carry more than 120 passengers, flew out only 26 people Wednesday morning, the Australian government said.
How can they let flights go out with empty seats — let alone 100 of them? It’s very much akin to lowering lifeboats on the Titanic with only a handful of occupants in them. Every empty seat is a life sacrificed at this point.
Security inside the airport is critical, but the US needed to secure the egress routes in Kabul well before the Taliban arrived. By the time Joe Biden sent troops back to re-secure the airport, it was far too late. It’s yet another example of the utter lack of contingency planning in this administration, and thousands of Americans — not to mention tens of thousands of our Afghan allies and partners — may end up paying the price for it.
That includes reporters like Clarissa Ward, who continues to risk her life to report on this catastrophic failure. Ward needs to find her way into the airport soon and get out, though. She’s done enough.
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