Pentagon spokesman John Kirby gave a less-than-confident answer in response to queries from media outlets following reports that some Americans were getting beaten by Taliban forces outside the international airport in Kabul.
During a Saturday briefing, Kirby, along with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor, discussed the reports as well as a host of additional information regarding the turbulent, chaotic situation that still exists in the Afghan capital. The briefing came after President Joe Biden gathered with his national security team in the White House Situation Room.
Continued violence being committed against Americans attempting to get into the airport so they can be evacuated was among the several topics discussed. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has actually acknowledged that the attacks have taken place and has condemned them.
“Can you give us any more detail about who these Americans are that Secretary Austin was talking about?” NBC News Pentagon Correspondent Courtney Kube asked Kirby.
“We’ve actually been talking about this for several days here, here at this particular podium,” Kirby said. “It wasn’t just Americans that he talked about that have been harassed and in some cases beaten.”
“We don’t believe it is a very large number,” he noted further.
The Pentagon spokesman went on to say that “by and large, most Americans who have their credentials with them are being allowed through the Taliban checkpoints and into the gate and onto the airfield.”
“Now, I have to caveat it and I’ll do it again,” Kirby warned. “We are aware of sporadic cases… where they aren’t being allowed, where there is some harassment going on and yes, some physical violence has occurred.”
Kirby went on to say that U.S. military commanders have made it “clear” to their Taliban counterparts that the violence against Americans is “unacceptable.”
“But what I’m wondering is, are the cases that the secretary was talking to the members about, were those occurring yesterday, I mean, are these recent…?” Kube reiterated.
“Over the course of the last week we have been made aware of this,” Kirby responded.
In another follow-up, Kube asked if those beatings continued after U.S. commanders “started talking to the Taliban and telling them not to.”
“I don’t have an exact breakdown day by day, Courtney,” Kirby replied. “I mean, we’ve been in touch with the Taliban for quite some time, I think, over the course of last week. And we’ve certainly made our concerns known.
“And I think equally frustrating is the fact that… what appears to be happening is that not every Taliban fighter either got the word or decided to obey the word. And I can’t speak to Taliban command and control,” he added.
“But by and large, and for the most part, Americans with their credentials are being given the passage they need through the checkpoints and are getting onto the field, again, security conditions permitting,” Kirby repeated.
The Biden administration has been roundly criticized for its handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, with President Biden himself facing unprecedented pushback and scrutiny from major media outlets that have typically been deferential to him.
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