Speed Reads

Both sides now

CNN's Clarissa Ward tells Colbert the Taliban believes the Kabul airport chaos 'looks really bad for them'

The Biden administration is getting heavy bipartisan criticism for the harried U.S. evacuation of Kabul after a faster-than-expected Taliban occupation of the Afghan capital, and CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward told The Late Show's Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night that Afghans are angry over America's manner of exit, too. 

"You know, I think this is a really important point to clarify," Ward said. "The Afghans that I have spoken to do not blame America for withdrawing from Afghanistan. They did not expect America to continue to fight another country's war for decades more, and they understand fully that Afghan people must assume responsibility of their own country. Where the bitterness, where the sadness, where the fear comes from is the manner in which this withdrawal was executed, the chaos of it, the hurried nature of it, the fact that more concessions weren't extracted from the Taliban during those negotiations" in 2020.

That's especially true for the Afghans who worked for U.S. forces and have not yet been extracted from the country — and may not be, Ward said. "That Taliban has definitely said please don't leave, because they're aware, from a public relations perspective, that these images of a crush of humanity desperately clinging to the fuselage of U.S. Air Force carriers trying to get out of the country, they're aware that looks really bad for them."

Even the Taliban was shocked at the speed with which they overran Afghanistan, "often without a shot fired, Stephen, and Afghan forces just melting away," Ward said. But a day after Kabul residents suddenly "woke up in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, forever changed," the streets were busier on Tuesday, the veneer of quasi-normality cracked when you notice "there's no women on the streets." At the same time, "it was amazing" watching younger Afghan journalists pepper the Taliban spokesman with tough questions at his first-ever press conference," she said. "You know, the Taliban, it remains to be seen whether or not they have changed, but the Afghan people have changed and they are going to stand up for what they believe in."