The airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, is pure chaos and evacuation flights haven’t taken off in hours, CNN’s chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward told the network Friday.
Ward, speaking live from Afghanistan, detailed scenes from the airport in Kabul, where swarms of people are desperately trying to get through the gates in the hopes of catching a flight out of the country. Ward said she and her team had been at the airport for 12 hours “and on the inner field for eight hours” before pushing back on how the administration is speaking about the situation.
“During the last eight hours, the time that we’ve been waiting here, we have not seen a single U.S. flight evacuate people,” Ward reported. “And so one U.S. flight took off about half an hour to an hour ago, but it was filled with U.S. servicemen and women. The people who have been sitting on the tarmac for the last ten hours have not been able to get on a flight.”
The CNN correspondent also highlighted how the reality in Kabul differs greatly from the “talking points” Americans are hearing from the Pentagon and the White House. She said the scene on the ground “shocked her,” in part because officials have been offering up different comments on the situation.
“Listening to the talking points that I was hearing from the Pentagon and the White House, I thought this whole thing was moving along swimmingly now,” she said. “And yet here I am, 12 hours later, and I haven’t seen a plane take off in eight hours. And I’m watching children coming up to me and saying, ‘please could you get me some food.’ So, it is clearly not working and one can only hope – I get it, it is really mammoth, gargantuan task and it is not for me to sit on the sidelines and criticize without understanding the enormity of the undertaking – but I come back to the point where did it have to be this way and try to evacuate 60,000 people in a few days with the Taliban providing protection for that operation?”
The White House messaging has undergone a rapid makeover in just over one month after the Taliban quickly overtook the country. In July, President Joe Biden largely dismissed the idea of a Taliban takeover and appeared confident in the Afghan army and government. The administration has sent out daily updates on evacuation numbers, which they hope will increase.
“On August 19, the U.S. evacuated approximately 3,000 people from Hamid Karzai International Airport on 16 C-17 flights. Nearly 350 U.S. citizens were evacuated,” a White House official said in the latest update. “Additional evacuees include family members of U.S. citizens, SIV applicants and their families, and vulnerable Afghans. We have evacuated approximately 9,000 people since August 14. Since the end of July, we have evacuated approximately 14,000 people.”
“Additionally, in the last 24 hours, the U.S. military facilitated the departure of 11 charter flights. The passengers on those charter flights are not included in the totals above,” the official added. (RELATED: Taliban Reportedly Kills Woman Not Wearing Burqa After Promising To Respect Women’s Rights)
Biden vowed to remain in Afghanistan until all Americans are evacuated, even if it passes the Aug. 31 deadline. He has doubled down on the drawdown process and recently claimed there was no way to leave the country “without chaos ensuing.”