Chaotic scenes from the Kabul airport show that Afghans, desperate to flee the country, don’t believe the Taliban’s softer tone or promises to maintain women’s rights, a former CIA intelligence officer told Fox News in an exclusive interview.
Shannon Spann, the widow of a fellow CIA officer who was the first American service member to be killed in combat in Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also reflected on children and women she met in the Middle Eastern nation during the U.S.’ intervention and what their lives will look like with the Taliban back in power.
“You don’t have to look further than the airport in Kabul to see that local Afghans don’t believe [the Taliban’s] story of ‘we’re going to be peaceful, we’re not going to do reprisals, we’re going to invite participation from women,'” Spann told Fox News. “People literally clinging to the landing gear of aircraft to try to get away from the story that they know is about to be written.”
The Hamid Karzai International Airport outside of Kabul fell into chaos as the Taliban seized the city, with Afghans and people from foreign nations, including U.S. citizens, flooding the site to escape the country. The mayhem led to several deaths. Video showed people clinging onto aircraft, and human remains were found in the wheel well of a U.S. military plane.
In the Taliban’s first news conference in Kabul, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghans who helped the U.S. would not face retaliation and that women would have their rights guaranteed “within the framework of Shariah.” Such commitments, if followed through, would be a significant break from the Taliban that controlled the Afghanistan prior to the U.S. intervention, though there have already been reports of executions and forced marriages.
Believing that the Taliban is painting a false narrative as killings continue, Spann reflected on women and children she met in Afghanistan soon after the U.S. entered Afghanistan.
She described meeting young children, the same ages as her children, who she met in an orphanage during a 2002 trip to Afghanistan for a ceremony honoring her late husband.
“They greeted us with such friendship,” Spann, who left the CIA in 2009, told Fox News. “They had such resilient joy on their faces.”
“I can’t stop thinking this week about those children,” she continued. “Now those children are in their 20s and 30s, like my children are. What will their life look like now?”
On the same trip, Spann said she was able to join a women’s council with multigenerational women.
They “were just crying and holding my hand, thanking us for U.S involvement in their struggle and telling me stories about how they were prisoners in their own homes before when the Taliban was controlling their county,” Spann told Fox News. “I wonder today, what has become of those women.”
President Biden said Monday during an address that he stood behind his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, even though the Taliban swept through the nation.
“I’m deeply disappointed in President Biden’s defiant stance in his address to the nation,” Spann told Fox News. “In times of conflict, excellent leaders keep people bigger than the problem.”
“We utterly failed at keeping people bigger than the problem,” Spann continued.
Spann told Fox News that the U.S. neglected to keep the vision of the people involved, including operators, military personnel who had devoted 20 years to the mission in Afghanistan, Gold Star families, the women and children Spann met and the Afghan society as a whole.
“We prioritized a narrow subset of a problem over all of those people,” Spann said.
She told Fox News that it was “unconscionable” that the U.S. had no plan to “evacuate the most vulnerable of our friends and partners.”