CNN reporter Clarissa Ward, who earlier this week described Taliban militants as “friendly,” said on Wednesday that a Taliban fighter threatened to pistol-whip one of the news crew members for filming scenes in the streets of Kabul.
In a report for CNN, Ward described worsening safety conditions on the ground in Afghanistan, including the risk of harm to her own crew members, which was later tweeted by CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy.
“The most frightening moment for our team came when our producer Brent Swails was taking some video on his iPhone,” Ward said. “Two Taliban fighters just came up with their pistols and they were ready to pistol-whip him. We had to intervene and scream and it was actually another Taliban fighter who came in and said, ‘No no no, don’t do that, they’re journalists.’”
“I’ve covered all sorts of crazy situations,” Ward said Wednesday. “This was mayhem. This was nuts.”
Video from the incident showed several armed militants surrounding Ward and her news team, with the butts of their rifles raised to strike them. The militants were eventually told that Ward’s team has permission to report, and the Taliban fighters eventually let them pass.
Ward previously drew attention for her reporting from Kabul on Monday, when she said Taliban fighters were “just chanting ‘Death to America,’ but they seem friendly at the same time, it’s utterly bizarre.”
Ward also said the Taliban’s “welcoming spirit” met its limit when they told her to move aside because she was a woman.
Taliban fighters have set up checkpoints throughout Kabul, many of which stand in the way of both Americans and Afghans trying to get to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, where U.S. troops are coordinating evacuation efforts out of the country.
In a Wednesday Pentagon press briefing, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said U.S. troops are not planning to leave the Kabul airport to mass evacuate Americans unable to reach the airport.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the U.S. State Department “is working with the Taliban to facilitate safe passage of American citizens – U.S. Passport holders” to the Kabul airport.
On Wednesday, Ward expressed doubts that ordinary civilians could get past a “gauntlet” of Taliban militants.
“No way they’re running that gauntlet,” Ward said. “No way they’re going to be able to navigate that. It’s very dicey. It’s very dangerous and it’s completely unpredictable. There’s no order, there’s no coherent system for processing people, separating those with papers from those who don’t have papers and, honestly, to me it’s a miracle that more people haven’t been very very seriously hurt.”