Female Afghan reporter to Pentagon press secretary: 'Everybody is upset, especially women'

A female Afghan reporter broke down during a Pentagon press briefing Monday about the rapidly deteriorating situation in her home country, asking the department’s press secretary in Washington, “Where is my president, former President Ghani?”

Journalist Nazira Karimi was referring to President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country on Sunday amid chaotic scenes in Kabul and the presidential palace takeover by the Taliban, who ordered the government to peacefully surrender.

“As you know, I'm from Afghanistan, and I'm very upset today because Afghan woman didn't expect that overnight all the Taliban came,” Karimi told Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

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“They took off my flag. This is my flag. And they put their flag. Everybody is upset, especially woman,” Karimi said, pointing to the Afghan flag on her mask. “Where is my president, former President Ghani?”

“People expected that he [would leave] with the people, and immediately he run away. We don't know where is he, and we don't have a president. President BidenJoe BidenBiden to provide update Monday on US response to omicron variant Restless progressives eye 2024 Emhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony MORE said the President Ghani know he has to fight for us people. They have to do everything, and we will able to financially help them. But we don't have any president. We don't have anything,” Karimi said.

Karimi spoke of fears by many women in the country that the achievements of Afghan women made over the last several years would be lost should the country once again be under Taliban rule, which strictly limits what women are allowed to do.

“Afghan people, they don't know what to do. Woman has a lot of achievement in Afghanistan. I had a lot of achievement. I left from the Taliban like 20 years ago. Now we go back to the first step again,” Karimi added.

She then asked Kirby, "Do you have any comment? Where is our president, Ghani? He should answer to Afghan people."

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Kirby responded to Karimi’s question by telling the reporter that there is “heartfelt respect to what you’re going through.” 

“We too have invested greatly in Afghanistan and in the progress that women and girls have made politically, economically, socially, and we certainly do understand, and we do feel the pain that you're feeling. Probably not to the same extent,” he added.

After Ghani fled, he said in a Facebook post that he left the country to prevent clashes with the Taliban and avoid more bloodshed.

That decision, however, left Afghanistan without its leader in its moment of need. The country’s security situation rapidly declined, and Taliban fighters began roaming the streets, raising concerns of danger among Afghan citizens and U.S. personnel in the region.

Chaos is continuing in the region, with U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped the American government over the last 20 years trying to evacuate the country.

Videos taken of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Sunday and Monday showed a sea of Afghan citizens storming the tarmac to board flights leaving the country, with some trying to fasten on to the outside of moving planes.

President Biden criticized Ghani during his address to the nation on Monday, claiming that Ghani was “wrong” in his assessment of Afghan forces’ ability to fight the Taliban.

“When I hosted the president Ghani and chairman of Abdullah at the White House in June, and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations. We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people. We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically. They failed to do any of that,” Biden said.

“I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. This advice was flatly refused. Mr. Ghani insisted that the Afghan forces would fight. But obviously he was wrong,” Biden added.