The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin reports that dozens of journalists who put their lives on the line for the U.S. over the years in Afghanistan are among those who have been left behind.
The administration was warned early and often about the 600 or so employees, contractors and family members who worked for U.S.-sponsored news organizations under the umbrella of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a federal agency funded by Congress. They include journalists working for the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio LIberty (RFE/RL) who have worked in Afghanistan for years — at great personal risk. The Taliban has killed four RFE/RL journalists since 2016 through suicide bomb attacks, and the company’s journalists routinely receive death threats from the extremists.
Now, the leaders of these organizations say the State Department promised to get their vulnerable people out of the country before the Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline, only to later renege on that promise amid the chaos and confusion at the Kabul airport. They describe a harrowing ordeal for these Afghans, who were repeatedly turned away by our own troops at the airport gates and whose personal information was handed over to the same Taliban fighters they are fleeing from.
Read the whole piece.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki claims the U.S. now has “enormous leverage” over the Taliban after gifting it a country and a victory it never earned on the battlefield. When pressed, Psaki said that leverage is in the form of the “global marketplace.” The Taliban is an extremist movement that has never prioritized trade above its ideology. That leverage probably sounds plausible in lounges at the State Department but it means nothing in the real world.
The Taliban can and will trade with its “great neighbor” China, the world’s second-largest economy. It doesn’t need us. It has our bases and billions of dollars in U.S. weapons.
What it has are hostages Joe Biden left behind, such as the journalists Rogin says were promised a way out and then stranded. It can hunt them down thanks to all the biometric gear and data the Biden administration left behind in its hasty retreat.
The RFE/RL journalists and their families made several independent trips to the airport, often spending long days and nights waiting just outside the gates, but never managed to get inside, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly told me during an interview. And now, they are stranded.
“You would have expected that the United States government, which helped create the space for journalism and civil society in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, would have tried to do more over the last several weeks to assist journalists who made a decision that it was best for them to leave the country,” Fly said. “But they consistently failed to do that.”
Journalists stateside helped shield Biden from criticism during the campaign that put him in the White House.