Reporters appeared flabbergasted by the comments President Biden made about the ongoing rescue efforts to get American citizens and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan.
Biden asserted during his remarks on Friday from the White House that the U.S. will have an “over the horizon capability” to assert itself back into the region to combat any terror threats.
“I’m having a hard time digesting what we heard because I couldn’t fact-check it fast enough in real-time because there were so many misrepresentations of what is happening on the ground,” Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reacted. “To hear the president talk about still having an ‘over the horizon capability’ to see what is happening with the remnants of Al Qaeda, ISIS K… and even the Taliban, that would require partners on the ground and what we’ve seen on in recent days is that those partners on the ground have been abandoned, they’re in hiding, they’re fearing for their lives, they fled the country. We don’t have partners, we don’t have eyes and ears.”
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“The whole reason the U.S. military cannot leave the airport to rescue any Americans who are out in Kabul when British and French special forces can do so is that they don’t have any partners left. They don’t have partners there who can help them safely navigate. So I don’t see how you can say that with a straight face that they’re going to be ‘over the horizon capabilities’ to see the terror threat in Afghanistan when this is all said and done.”
Griffin also pointed to world leaders who were “gobsmacked” by America’s sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan, muddling Biden’s suggestion that the intention all along was that NATO allies were “leaving together.”
ABC senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell offered a blistering response after anchor David Muir asked if Biden’s comments about Americans being able to make it to the airport in Kabul “square with reporting on the ground.”
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“I mean, just totally not,” Pannell responded. “The reaction was pretty much one of the- I mean, it was breathtaking. ‘No indication Americans can’t get to the airport.’ I mean, last night on ‘World News,’ we had American citizens who had exactly that experience. They had tried to get to the airport. They waved their American passports… they were beaten by the Taliban.”
“It just seems the reality and the rhetoric are miles apart,” Pannell later added.
Fox News confirmed that even Defense Secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin, who was standing alongside the president during the press conference, rebuked his boss when telling lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the beatings of Americans by the Taliban were happening, which he called “unacceptable.”
“This statement alone from Austin contradicts a lot of what Biden just said at the White House about Americans not having a hard time getting to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul,” Politico congressional correspondent Andrew Desiderio tweeted.
The Washington Post called Biden’s remarks about the airport access “puzzling,” insisting they don’t “comport with the reporting on the ground.”
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“it’s an issue on which we could use some clarity about what’s being done, what’s on the table — or at least just what’s actually happening,” Post reporter Aaron Blake wrote.
CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward similarly pushed back on Biden’s simplified rhetoric, saying “We had difficulty getting into the airport.”
“Working out how to get to the airport is like a Rubik’s cube,” Ward said, reporting from Kabul. “It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult. It’s not a simple process at all.”
After explaining the complexities and the threats outside the airport perimeter, Ward added, “Anyone who says that any American can get in here is, you know- I mean, technically it’s possible but it’s extremely difficult and it’s dangerous!”
NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel also detailed the turbulent journey for Americans to escape Afghanistan.
“President Biden just described a very orderly process, an American airlift that is going efficiently, that there’s a negotiation with the Taliban, that it may be difficult but Afghans can get to the airport and then get on these flights and then come to places like Doha [Qatar]. It is far more chaotic than that,” Engel told NBC’s Lester Holt.
Engel spoke about the checkpoints, some of them being “more aggressive” than others and that Americans running the operation at the airport are “afraid” to open the gates in fear of “a rush” of people trying to leave, stressing that there are far more people, particularly those without any documentation, fleeing from Afghanistan than the U.S. initially anticipated.
“So it is a much more complicated airlift. It is now a humanitarian airlift, more of a refugee extraction,” Engel said. “There is an enormous challenge right now of figuring out who these people are, where to put them, how to process them and how to get even more into the process.”
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The Pentagon also debunked Biden’s claim that al-Qaeda was “done” in Afghanistan, saying the terror group as well as ISIS “have a presence” in the country while pressed by Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin.
“But the president just said that there is no Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. That does not seem to be correct,” Griffin said during a press conference.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby attempted to walk back Biden’s comments, telling Griffin the president meant Al Qaeda’s presence “isn’t significant enough to merit a threat to our homeland.”