White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 27, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday pushed back on a recent report that the U.S. gave the Taliban lists identifying the Americans and Afghans trying to evacuate the country through the airport in Kabul.
Psaki acknowledged that U.S. commanders have provided the names of evacuees to the Taliban as they arrived at checkpoints, but denied that the military has provided lists of would-be evacuees to the Taliban “preemptively,” as indicated by Politico.
“First let me say there have been reports that we provided lists of people who want to leave Afghanistan to the Taliban. That’s inaccurate. That’s misreported and misconstrued,” Psaki said.
“There have been limited cases where it is possible that when buses or individuals are at a border checkpoint and they’re trying to get through, in order to get them through to evacuate them successfully, we have had to coordinate and provide details,” Psaki continued. “I don’t have confirmation of those events, but that is the scenario in a limited case where that would happen. And in the vast majority of cases, those individuals have been evacuated.”
In response to a follow-up question, Psaki attempted to clarify her remarks.
“Reports or suggestions that we were giving a preemptive list of Afghans who want to leave the country is inaccurate,” Psaki said. “There could be cases where commanders who are communicating with the Taliban to get people through checkpoints…were saying ‘here’s individuals who need to get through.’”
The U.S. gave names of American citizens, green-card holders, and Afghan allies to the Taliban so that militants providing security at the Kabul airport would let them through the outer perimeter, Politico reported on Thursday. Thousands of Americans and Afghans have attempted to leave Afghanistan via the airport and have faced hurdles reaching it including Taliban checkpoints and threat of terror attacks.
National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne told Politico at the time that “in limited cases we have shared information with the Taliban that has successfully facilitated evacuations from Kabul.”
Critics of the administration responded to the Politico report by accusing the military of providing the Taliban with a “kill list” that would enable the terrorist group to quickly round up and execute any Afghans who worked with the U.S. military throughout the 20-year occupation.
President Biden said on Thursday that he couldn’t say “with any certitude that there’s actually been a list of names.”
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan also pushed back on media coverage of the issue in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
“We’ve given no list of all the American SIV holders to the Taliban or any other kind of big list,” Sullivan said. “The way that we are moving thousands…of Afghans at risk to the airport is asking them to muster, many of them on buses, bringing them to the airport. And then we work with the Taliban, group by group, bus by bus, to get them through the Taliban checkpoints and on to the airport compound.”
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