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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin contradicts Biden, says Americans are being assaulted by the Taliban in Kabul

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lloyd austin
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (center) meets with National Guard troops deployed to the US Capitol on January 29, 2021. Manuel Balce Ceneta-Pool/Getty Images
  • Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin said Americans are being beaten by the Taliban trying to get to the airport.

  • His comments to lawmakers came just moments after Biden said he hadn't heard of such cases.

  • Reporters in Afghanistan have also documented Americans having trouble reaching the airport.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed reports that Americans trying to reach the airport to leave Afghanistan are being beaten and called it "unacceptable" just moments after President Joe Biden said he didn't know of any Americans being blocked.

"We know of no circumstance where American citizens are - carrying an American passport are trying to get through to the airport," Biden said in Friday remarks on the US' chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But Biden's claim was almost immediately refuted by his own defense secretary in a briefing with members of Congress, Politico reported.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also confirmed the reports.

"We've communicated to the Taliban that that is absolutely unacceptable and we want free passage through these checkpoints for documented Americans," Kirby said. "By and large, that's happening."

Journalists in Kabul have reported that American citizens are being blocked from getting to Hamid Karzai Airport in the nation's capital by the Taliban.

"We had difficulty getting into the airport," CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward said on air on Friday, "Working out how to get to the airport is like a Rubik's cube...it's very difficult, it's not a simple process at all."

"Anyone who says any American can get in here, is, you know - technically it's possible, but it's very difficult, but it's extremely difficult and it is dangerous," she added.

In an earlier report from Wednesday, Ward's camera crew captured Taliban fighters brandishing weapons to bar access to the airport.

ABC News' Ian Pannell, also reporting from Kabul, said Biden's claim "totally" doesn't match with his experience on the ground, saying he knows of multiple American citizens and Afghan visa recipients who haven't been able to make the journey to the airport.

"It was breathtaking," he said. "Last night on 'World News,' we had American citizens who had exactly that experience. They tried to get into the airport, they had waved their American passports...they were beaten by the Taliban with the rubber fan belts from a vehicle."

"It just seems the reality and the rhetoric are miles apart," Pannell added. "I'm not quite sure what advice the president is receiving, but the truth on the ground is that these people who are in fear of their lives can't get through."

One of those Americans interviewed by ABC, David Fox, detailed his own unsuccessful experiences trying to get into the Kabul airport.

"I actually got whacked with one of those fan belts for not moving fast enough," he said.

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