“If you have an American passport, and if you have the right credentials, the Taliban has been allowing people to pass safely through,” Austin said during a Sunday interview on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, adding when pressed, “There's no such thing as an absolute.”
“As we learn about those incidents — we certainly go back and engage the Taliban leadership and press home to them that our expectation is that they allow, you know, our people with the appropriate credentials to get through the checkpoints,” he added.
The president, days earlier when asked about Americans “who haven’t been able to get to the airport safely,” said, "We know of no circumstance where American citizens are — carrying an American passport are trying to get through to the airport.”
Biden’s response did not match with reports from Afghanistan at the time he made them, and Austin contradicted those claims during a briefing with congressional lawmakers that afternoon as well, according to Politico.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, also on Friday, confirmed that there had been some incidents of violence.
“We’ve communicated to the Taliban that that is absolutely unacceptable and we want free passage through these checkpoints for documented Americans. ... By and large, that’s happening,” he told reporters.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan pushed back on the notion that Biden and his defense secretary are sharing contradictory statements.
“What the president has consistently directed his team to do, and what he has explained, in fact, in that very press conference, is that if there are any issues with the movement of Americans through the city, we have dealt with those cases one by one and resolved them, when that information is presented to us,” Sullivan said during a Sunday morning interview on CNN.
He also said there are still “several thousand” Americans in Afghanistan trying to leave, though he couldn't give a “precise” number.
The Pentagon on Sunday announced the activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, which provides the Department of Defense access to commercial aircraft, to "augment our support to the Department of State in the evacuation of U.S. citizens and personnel, Special Immigrant Visa applicants, and other at-risk individuals from Afghanistan."
The Pentagon activated 18 aircraft, three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines. The Pentagon does not anticipate sending these planes to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
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Original Author: Mike Brest