State Department spokesman Ned Price got into a heated exchange Tuesday with Associated Press reporter Matt Lee over the Biden administration’s Afghanistan policy.
The exchange began when Price answered a question from another reporter about the Taliban’s refusal to ensure human rights for Afghans, including the barring of Afghan girls from being able to go to school. Price once again expressed the administration’s disapproval, prompting Lee to interject and ask what the president and his team are actually going to do about it.
“What are you gonna do? Will you answer my question from yesterday?” Lee asked. “I saw that some people wrote ‘Oh, the U.S. says it’s going to take some measures if the Taliban doesn’t reverse these decision.’ But what measures have you taken, or are you gonna take? You haven’t taken any even though they’ve done these offensive things that you say, going back more than a month now. So what exactly are you gonna do, and why should anyone believe you?”
Price said that the United States had led the world in providing humanitarian relief to Afghanistan. Lee once again attempted to interject, but Price raised his voice and continued. “I think our credibility when it comes to the humanitarian concerns of the Afghan people, I think we have established our leadership on that,” he said.
“Did the United States lead the world in withdrawing from Afghanistan and allowing the Taliban to take control again?” Lee asked.
“I would absolutely reject the premise that the United States allowed the Taliban to take the capital,” Price responded.
Price said they could relitigate the president’s decision to withdraw 2,500 troops who would have been in danger with a target on their back in the country and not been able to stop the Taliban from taking control anyway. He then reiterated that the United States’ humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan has led the world. (RELATED: New Pentagon Report: US Left Billions Worth Of Military Equipment Behind In Afghanistan)
“This administration has also said that human rights is one of its top priorities in terms of foreign policy. It doesn’t seem to be so central here,” Lee pressed, prompting Price to once again raise his voice in frustration.
“It is central — Matt, you seem to be accusing us of what the Taliban is doing to the people of Afghanistan,” Price said.
“I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I’m asking you what you’re doing to prevent this or to show your displeasure, other than coming out with, you know, saying, writing a nasty letter,” Lee rebutted.
Lee then asked if there’s been discussion about reopening the embassy in Kabul, as there had been with the embassy in Kyiv. Price said he wasn’t aware of any discussion about that. “Is one of the things you’re doing to show your displeasure not opening the embassy?” Lee asked.
Price said there are a number of factors that go into that decision. He closed by saying that the U.S. will judge the Taliban by its behavior, including its upholding of human rights and commitment to counter-terrorism.