Monday, September 20

A CNN journalist described the’gauntlet’ people face to reach the Kabul airport as they try to flee Afghanistan, despite US claims


  • The White House said Tuesday the Taliban promised safe passage out of Afghanistan for civilians.
  • But CNN’s Clarissa Ward reported Afghans trying to reach the airport were turned away amid gunfire.
  • Gunfire could be heard during Ward’s live broadcast from outside the airport.

CNN’s Clarissa Ward said Wednesday civilians in Kabul face danger and chaos as they try to reach Kabul’s airport and flee Afghanistan.

Ward was reporting live from the ground in Kabul, less than 200 yards away from Hamid Karzai Airport, when gunfire could be heard ringing out during the broadcast. She said hundreds of people desperately trying to flee the country were gathered after trying to reach the airport and being pushed back by the Taliban.

“It’s definitely chaotic, it’s definitely dangerous,” she said. “I’m not going to lie, you’re running the gauntlet to try to get in there because there are so many different things going on. You can just hear the gunfire is pretty much constant as the Taliban tries to push people back.”

Read more: After 20 years of destruction, the US has a moral obligation to let in 1 million Afghan refugees

Ward said the gunfire did not appear to be aimed at people, but rather shot up into the air in an effort to disperse the crowds.

“But of course the minute you’re firing willy nilly when you have a bunch of civilians all over the road and civilian vehicles, people get hurt,” she said.

Thousands of people have tried to flee Afghanistan since the Taliban swiftly seized control of the country on Sunday, returning the militant group to power 20 years after being driven out by US-led forces.

The White House said on Tuesday the Taliban promised to allow for safe passage out of Afghanistan for civilians the US is working to evacuate, including Americans and Afghans who helped or worked for US troops. Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of US troops in Kabul, said interference in the evacuation would be met with “overwhelming force.”

But Ward said the scene on the ground appeared to contradict those claims.

Some of the people she spoke with, including one man who claimed to already have a US green card, said the Taliban pushed them away and would not let them enter the airport.

She asked another man what his message to the US was, and he responded, “We help the American people, so that’s their jobs to help now, right now here. There’s a very bad situation.”

Ward noted that someone with a US green card should be allowed to enter the airport as part of the US evacuation, but that the chaos of the situation and subsequent crowds may have the Taliban worried about the optics.

“The Taliban knows that having thousands of people on the streets desperately trying to press into the airport because they’re so frightened, because they just want more than anything to leave, they know that that looks bad,” she said. “So it is not entirely surprising that the Taliban is not exactly embracing this sort of mass exodus.”

The Taliban has tried to re-frame itself as moderate in comparison to its earlier incarnations. It said that it would respect women’s rights, but the history of the group and its final brutal sweep through the country raise significant doubts.

The US is seeking to evacuate 10,000 to 15,000 Americans currently in Afghanistan, as well as 50,000 to 65,000 Afghans and their families, President Joe Biden told ABC News Wednesday.

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