WASHINGTON — A female Afghan journalist tearfully confronted a Pentagon spokesman during a Monday press briefing, in a poignant reminder of the human stakes of the Taliban’s takeover of a nation that the United States had long hoped would be transformed into a stable democracy.
“I’m from Afghanistan, and I am very upset today,” the journalist, Nazira Karimi, told Defense Department spokesman John Kirby. “Afghan women didn’t expect that overnight all the Taliban came.”
Over the weekend the Afghan government collapsed amid the U.S. withdrawal, and the Taliban surged back into Kabul. Many fear that the Taliban will impose their strict interpretation of Islam, which was especially repressive to women and girls.
“Everybody is upset, especially women,” Karimi said.
Karimi, who according to her LinkedIn page is a reporter for the Ariana Television Network, said in a brief but emotional address — much closer to a statement of dismay than a question — that she had herself escaped the Taliban 20 years ago.
In keeping with the Biden administration’s policy and local guidance, she was wearing a face mask to protect against the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. Her mask was adorned with Afghanistan’s national flag. “They took off my flag,” Karimi said as she peeled the mask back. “This is my flag.”
Kirby watched with a sympathetic expression on his face.
Karimi reserved her scorn for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as the Taliban approached. “Where is my president?” she said. “We don’t have any president, we don’t have anything.”
The Biden administration says it intends to evacuate Afghans who helped the United States, but the president made clear in his address Monday that Afghanistan would be otherwise left to its own devices.
“I understand,” Kirby said, for his part. “We all understand the anxiety and the fear and the pain that you’re feeling. It’s clear, and it’s evident.”
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