CNN reporter Clarissa Ward, who has been covering the situation on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan, since the city fell to the Taliban on Sunday, blasted President Joe Biden on Thursday and appeared to questions the president’s conclusion that the Afghan withdrawal is not a “failure.”
In his interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos Wednesday night, Biden was asked whether, given that the Taliban have now taken over the country and the United States is struggling to evacuate American citizens and Afghan nationals with special visas, the withdrawal could be considered a “failure,” Biden became visibly angry.
Stephanopoulos asked whether the withdrawal was a failure of “intelligence, planning, execution, or judgment,” to which Biden responded, “Look, I don’t think it was a failure. Look, it was a simple choice, George.”
“When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government getting on a plane taking off and going to another country, when you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained — that’s what happened, that’s simply what happened,” he said. “I don’t think it could have been handled in a way that, we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look… but the idea that somehow there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened.”
Ward, speaking about a New York Times report that noted that Taliban soldiers are now going door-to-door seeking Afghans who assisted the United States and its coalition partners, with a list of people to “question and punish,” Ward launched into a diatribe about the things she’s witnessed over the last several days, asking “if this isn’t failure, what does failure look like?”
CNN reporter on situation in Afghanistan:
"If this isn't failure then what does failure look like?" pic.twitter.com/qg7uk7neQD
— The First (@TheFirstonTV) August 19, 2021
“The lack of clear information, the rumor mill is in overdrive,” Ward said on CNN Thursday morning. “There’s hysteria. You have Taliban fighters with whips, with guns. You have U.S. and U.K. soldiers who are not allowing people in. You have mixed messaging coming through about what kind of paperwork you need and how you can get on a flight and where you can go.”
“It is just an absolute mess,” Ward snapped.
“And we heard President Biden say yesterday in his comments to ABC News that this is not a failure,” she continued. “I think a lot of people outside their airport, particularly those taking the kinds of extreme actions…would like to know if this isn’t failure, what does failure look like, exactly.”
President Joe Biden said yesterday that, despite having no formal plan to extricate Americans trapped in Afghanistan, that troops would stay in the country until all United States citizens had been evacuated. So far, that is moving slowly, with just around 2,000 people rescued so far. There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Americans in Afghanistan, most of whom are in and around the capital city of Kabul.
The Pentagon was pressed, Thursday, over why American troops are not being allowed to go into Kabul city to rescue Americans trapped outside of the airport but would say only that the priority is to secure and hold the military side of Hamid Karzai International Airport.