White House press secretary Jen Psaki labeled it “irresponsible” to say that Americans currently attempting to leave Afghanistan are “stranded” in the country, in response to a question from Fox News reporter Peter Doocy at a press briefing on Monday.
PSAKI: "I think it's irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not."
DOOCY: "'There are no Americans stranded' is the White House's official position on what's happening in Afghanistan right now?" pic.twitter.com/0FEq5VkO6V
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) August 23, 2021
“First of all, I think it’s irresponsible to say Americans are stranded. They are not,” Psaki said. “We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home,” adding that the U.S. is in touch with Americans in Afghanistan by phone, email, and other communications.
“‘There are no Americans stranded’ is the White House’s official position on what’s happening in Afghanistan right now?” Doocy countered.
“I’m just calling you out for saying that we are stranding Americans in Afghanistan when we have been very clear that we are not leaving Americans who want to return home. We are going to bring them home,” Psaki said.
Americans are stranded in Afghanistan.
Denying this fact is ignoring reality.
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) August 23, 2021
“Americans are stranded in Afghanistan. Denying this fact is ignoring reality,” Fox News reporter Trey Yingst wrote on Twitter shortly following Psaki’s comments. Yingst is currently reporting from Kabul.
“U.S. Forces Go Into Kabul to Extract Stranded Americans and Allies,” read a New York Times headline on Monday.
The only evacuation route for Americans currently in Afghanistan is through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, and to arrive there Americans must pass through Taliban checkpoints and brave crowds of people outside the airport. On Saturday the U.S. Embassy urged Americans to avoid the airport over “potential security threats,” while a gunfight erupted on Monday morning at the airport.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin acknowledged that some Americans attempting to leave Afghanistan have been beaten by Taliban fighters, in comments to House lawmakers on Friday reported by Politico.
“We’re…aware that some people including Americans have been harassed and even beaten by the Taliban,” Austin said. “This is unacceptable and [we] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader.”
Around 37,000 people in total have been evacuated via the Kabul airport since August 14, a White House official told NBC News on Monday.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that “several thousand Americans” have been evacuated since the same day. Kirby said he did not want to state a specific number because “the number is very fluid, and it literally changes, nearly by the hour.”