Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said on Thursday that Taliban “goons” are blocking, beating and stripping documents of people trying to escape Afghanistan via the Kabul international airport, now controlled by American troops inside a strict fence line.
“It is total violent chaos outside of the airport contrary, to Joe Biden who is on [ABC News] this morning claiming that the Taliban is cooperating with us,” Mr. Cotton said on Fox News. “My office has been in touch with dozens of people on the ground outside the airport where Taliban are beating people indiscriminately, taking their passports, taking their visa papers.”
He added, “All of this is happening just a few yards away from the gates and American soldiers are not allowed to enter beyond that perimeter to try to secure American citizens who are making their way through these crowds of Taliban goons to get into the airport.”
The lawmaker’s report was in contrast with the relatively upbeat picture painted minutes earlier by Defense Department press briefers, who stressed the landing strip itself is secure. The Biden team has offered no assurance that all Americans will be able to make the dangerous trek to the Kabul airport before U.S. evacuation troops leave.
Mr. Cotton, a former U.S. Army infantry officer who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, said his staff is working around the clock to collect intelligence and try to facilitate the movement of U.S. citizens and Afghan military allies out of Taliban-dominated Afghanistan.
“The situation around the Kabul airport is getting worse by the day. It’s not getting better,” said Mr. Cotton, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Armed Services Committee. “So it may be true that the tarmac is under control, but that doesn’t do any good for the thousands of American citizens who our government just told again cannot be guaranteed safe passages to the airport. That has to change. It has to change today.”
Mr. Biden, in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, downplayed problems with the U.S. troop withdrawal, the subsequent retreat of the Afghan Security Forces and ensuing chaos that has stranded thousands of Americans.
Mr. Biden said on July 8 that such events were “highly unlikely,” but now says they were to be expected.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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