A Washington Post reporter has revealed British troops helped her and her Afghan team get to Kabul airport so they could board US evacuation flights — as the Biden administration faces mounting criticism for not allowing forces to go out and rescue stranded Americans.
Reporter Susannah George wrote about her “treacherous journey” to flee Kabul with her colleagues and their families, including eight young children, just two days after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.
In a follow-up interview after being evacuated, George told MSNBC: “The only reason I was able to get to the airport with my team was because there was a large British evacuation going on … and also because I was with my team. I am an American passport holder.”
“The danger of going to the airport is so incredibly high at the moment.”
Given the deadly chaos outside the airport in the days after the Taliban came to power, George said she and team rented armored cars driven by private security in a bid to protect themselves as they plotted how they were going to get into the airport.
She said the Washington Post had already organized for her, her Afghan colleagues and their families to be put on the US evacuation flights out of Kabul but getting to the airport was a concern given the US embassies warning they couldn’t guarantee a safe passage.
George said it was a coincidence that British troops arrived at the secure compound where she was staying to “escort a larger evacuation” that same day.
As part of that evacuation, the British troops had managed to shut down a road leading to the airport and planned to keep it clear of Taliban fighters for an hour to complete their evacuation.
George said it provided her and her team a “small window of opportunity” to get to the airport.
“Initially, the men were cautious about helping us. We weren’t part of their evacuation, and the officer said they needed sign-off from the U.S. Embassy,” George wrote in her piece.
A few phone calls later, George said their group of 13 piled into their armored vehicles and started driving towards the airport.
“The American soldiers guarding the gate were surprised to see cars on a street that was supposed to be closed to traffic. I held my press badge against the windshield, nodded to the guard tower and got out of the car, holding up my hands. After a quick exchange on his radio, he allowed us through,” she said.
George said she had to speak to multiple US troops once inside the airport about getting onto a flight. Within an hour of arriving, all 13 were on the same flight bound for Qatar.
Her story comes as the Biden administration faces fierce criticism for keeping US forces holed up at Kabul’s airport amid reports Americans are struggling to even get to the airport to be evacuated.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week that US forces “don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people” because they need to focus on keeping the airport secured.
“We’re going to do everything we can to continue to try and deconflict and create passageways for them to get to the airfield. I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul,” Austin said.
He added there “have been no hostile interactions with the Taliban” so far.
“We do hear reports of people getting turned away from checkpoints. We’ve gone back and … reinforced to the Taliban, that if they have credentials they need to be allowed through – and so that’s working better than it was,” Austin claimed.