The Taliban are not a “group we trust,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday, following a devastating twin suicide bombing attack in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, that killed 13 U.S. soldiers and 72 civilians, and injured scores more. “I’m not trying to sugarcoat what we think of the Taliban,” she added. “They are not our friends.”
Psaki’s words were a pushback to accusations from Republican politicians and others that the Biden administration has been ridiculously naïve in expecting to be able to achieve a measure of collaboration with the Taliban – and that in doing so, it has put many lives at risk.
According to Politico, U.S. officials in Kabul went so far as to give the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies, requesting that the fighters holding positions beyond Kabul airport’s perimeter let those on the lists through safely, so that they can make it onto flights out of the country. Around 100,000 people have been evacuated so far, but many more – including foreign nationals – are sheltering in safer areas than the airport perimeter, rather than chancing any of the perilous routes to the airport.
At a press conference on Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden was asked to comment on the lists of names handed to the Taliban, and responded that he “wasn’t sure” that such lists existed. However, he confirmed that, “There have been occasions when our military has contacted their military counterparts in the Taliban and said this, for example, this bus is coming through with X number of people on it, made up of the following group of people. We want you to let that bus or that group through. So, yes there have been occasions like that. To the best of my knowledge, in those cases, the bulk of that has occurred and they have been let through.”
Administration officials have been challenged on the issue several times since, and each time, officials have rebuffed the attacks, protesting that this cooperation is the best way to protect American citizens and allies seeking to find a way out of the country. “They had to do that because of the security situation the White House created by allowing the Taliban to control everything outside the airport,” one U.S. official pointed out.
However, with reports coming in of Taliban fighters going “door to door” seeking out Afghans who worked with foreigners during the past 20 years, with documented “reprisal” killings and violence, the administration’s decision to share information with the Taliban is still coming under fire.
“It’s just appalling and shocking,” one defense official told Politico, on condition of anonymity. “Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list.”
Anyone who shared those names with the Taliban is an “utter fool,” said Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska. “The Senate Intelligence Committee needs to investigate who came up with this brain-dead idea, whether our intelligence agencies were given a chance to warn against it, and who decided to hand over the list to the Taliban,” he added.
Absolutely reckless and horrific.
The Biden Administration gave the Taliban a kill list while lying to us, saying they didn’t have details on every name and whereabouts.
Every single person involved must resign or be impeached.https://t.co/SbMrXgCEb5
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) August 26, 2021
All the same, the facts on the ground are that senior officers in the U.S. military are continuing to share information with the Taliban and insist that it is expedient to do so. Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, told press at a briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday that in the wake of the suicide bombings, the U.S. army was maintaining its contacts with the Taliban with the aim of increasing security at the airport.
“We’ve reached out to the Taliban; we’ve told them you need to continue to push out the security perimeter,” he said. “We’ve identified some roads that we would like them to close and they’ve indicated that they’ll be willing to close those roads, because we assess the threat of a suicide borne vehicle threat is high right now, so we want to reduce the possibility of one of those vehicles getting close.”
McKenzie added that he believed cooperation with the Taliban was beneficial, saying, “We share versions of our information with the Taliban, so that they can actually do some searching out there for us and we believe that some attacks have been thwarted by them.”
Tucker Carlson addresses the ‘Kill List’.
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