Aug 16, 2021 - World

"They took off my flag": Afghan journalist makes emotional plea to Pentagon

Amid roiling fear and pleas for help from Afghanistan, Afghan journalist Nazira Karimi demanded answers from the White House at a press briefing Monday.

What she's saying: "I'm very upset today, because Afghan women didn't expect that overnight all the Taliban came. They took off my flag," she said, motioning to a face mask with the Afghanistan flag's design. "And they put their flag. ... Afghan people, they don't know what to do."

  • "Where is my president?" she asked Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby. "People expected that he would stand by with the people. And immediately, he ran away. ... He should answer to Afghan people."
  • "President Biden said that [Afghanistan] President [Ashraf] Ghani knows he has to fight for us people. ... But we don't have any president, we don't have anything," she said, visibly in distress.
  • Women have made strides in Afghanistan since the Taliban was first expelled, she added. "I had a lot of achievement," she said, her voice breaking. "I left from the Taliban like 20 years ago. Now we go back to the first step again." 

Kirby said he couldn't speak to Ghani's location but added that "nobody here at the Pentagon is happy about the images that we've seen coming out in the last few days."

  • "So, a heartfelt respect to what you're going through," he said. "We, too, have invested greatly in Afghanistan and in the progress that women and girls have made."
  • He reiterated that the administration's priority is to assist U.S.-affiliated Afghans and "honor that obligation to all those who helped make all that progress possible."

The big picture: In an address earlier in the day, President Biden said he stands by his decision to pull out U.S. troops and cast blame on the Afghan government for failing to defend the country.

  • The Taliban's siege leaves Afghan women and girls in a vulnerable position, as they stand to lose hard-won rights to education, employment and everyday freedoms.
  • The Biden administration has faced sharp criticism over its response to the rapid collapse and the U.S.'s chaotic evacuation effort.
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