- A female Afghan reporter tearfully questioned developments in her country during Monday’s Pentagon press briefing.
- She expressed grief and frustration over the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
- “We don’t have any president, we don’t have anything,” she said. “Afghan people, they don’t know what to do.”
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
A female Afghan reporter questioned, with tears in her eyes, the fate of her country after its fall to the Taliban during a Monday afternoon press briefing at the Pentagon, calling attention to the emotional toll of recent developments in Afghanistan.
“I’m very upset today,” the reporter said, saying that Afghan women were not expecting the Taliban to come back overnight.
“They took off my flag. This is my flag,” she said, pointing to her face mask with the flag of Afghanistan. “They put their flag. Everybody is upset, especially women.”
-Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) August 16, 2021
In her apparent grief, she lost her train of thought. Regaining it, she asked, “Where is my president, former President [Ashraf] Ghani?” She expressed frustration that Ghani fled the country as the Taliban’s sweeping nationwide offensive reached Kabul.
“We don’t have any president, we don’t have anything,” the reporter said. “Afghan people, they don’t know what to do.”
“Women in Afghanistan have a lot of achievement. I have a lot of achievement,” she said. “I lived from the Taliban like 20 years ago. Now we go back to the first step again.”
“Let me say with all due respect that I understand,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. “We all understand the anxiety, the fear, and the pain that you’re feeling. It’s clear and it’s evident, and nobody here at the Pentagon is happy about the images we’ve seen coming out in the last few days.”
The moment at the Pentagon was one of a number of heartbreaking and tragic moments over the past couple of days.
It follows a period of chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where thousands of Afghans desperately fleeing the Taliban insurgency rushed the airfield, forcing their way onto planes and in some cases clinging to the outside as the aircraft tried to depart.
Though the situation on the ground in Afghanistan has become increasingly dire after the Taliban regained control for the first time in 20 years, the Biden administration is maintaining that it made the right decision in terms of moving to withdraw US troops.
In his first speech since the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday, President Joe Biden on Monday said, “I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces.”
As concerns mount about the safety of Afghan women and any who assisted US forces over the course of the war, Biden said, “In the coming days, the U.S. military will provide assistance to move more SIV-eligible (Special Immigrant Visa) Afghans and their families out of Afghanistan.”
The president added that the US would expand “refugee access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who work for our embassy, US nongovernmental organizations, and Afghans who otherwise are a great risk in US news agencies.”
The Biden administration has faced widespread criticism for not moving to help vulnerable Afghans earlier, given there have been concerns about their safety for some time now and particularly since the president announced the US withdrawal in April.
The president effectively blamed this on the Afghan government in his remarks, stating that it “discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, a crisis of confidence.”
“I’m deeply saddened by the facts we now face. But I do not regret my decision to end America’s war-fighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser focus on our counterterrorism mission, there and other parts of the world,” Biden said.
He added that he knows his decision will be criticized but he’d rather “take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president of the United States, yet another one, a fifth one.”