A spokesman for the Department of Defense (DOD) said the Pentagon is aware of reports that Americans have been beaten in Afghanistan by Taliban members, appearing to contradict comments made by President Joe Biden earlier in the day.
Earlier Friday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told congressional lawmakers in a confidential call that U.S. citizens were assaulted in Kabul, according to several news outlets citing anonymous sources. The Epoch Times has not been able to verify the reports’ authenticity and has reached out to the Pentagon for comment.
When asked about the reports of beatings and Austin’s comments, DOD press secretary John Kirby said, “We’re certainly mindful of these reports and they’re deeply troubling, and we have communicated to the Taliban that that’s absolutely unacceptable, that we want free passage through their checkpoints for documented Americans.”
Kirby, however, stressed that “by and large,” Americans are able to pass through Taliban checkpoints to the airport. The Taliban is considered a terrorist organization by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the group is known to have harbored other terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, in the past when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
During a briefing call, Austin allegedly told members of Congress: “We’re also aware that some people, including Americans, have been harassed and even beaten by the Taliban … This is unacceptable and [we] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader.” Austin also said that most Americans and credentialed Afghans move through the checkpoints.
The reports of beatings and Austin’s remarks come in contrast to a statement made by Biden during a news conference when he said there is “no indication” that Americans have been unable to get to the Kabul airport, where thousands of U.S. military forces are stationed.
“To the best of our knowledge, the Taliban checkpoints, they are letting through people showing American passports,” Biden said Friday at the White House, adding that “we know of no circumstance where American citizens, carrying an American passport,” were being blocked.
The president also said that the United States has “made an agreement with the Taliban thus far.”
Kirby also contradicted a statement made by Biden during his Friday press conference. While the president said there is no al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan, Kirby told reporters that the terrorist network does indeed operate in Afghanistan.
Facing mounting criticism over his administration’s handling of the pullout, Biden stressed that any Americans who wish to leave will be able to do so.
This week, CNN reporter Clarissa Ward, who is currently in Kabul, said that her crew had difficulty getting to the airport on Friday, saying “it’s very difficult” and “dangerous.”
Video footage uploaded online showed Taliban members blocking Afghans, ABC News crews, and others from entering the airport. Some Taliban members were seen beating people, including children, amid the evacuation chaos.