Aug 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Jake Sullivan: Biden didn't think it was "inevitable" Taliban would take control

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that President Biden did not believe it was "inevitable" that the Taliban would take control of Afghanistan, laying the blame at the feet of the Afghan security forces who "decided not to step up and fight for their country."

Why it matters: Biden is under fire for comments he made just over a month ago, when he dismissed comparisons to the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and said it was "highly unlikely" that the Taliban would control the entire country.

  • "The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability," Biden told reporters on July 8.
  • "There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable."

The big picture: Officials inside the Biden administration were stunned by the speed of the Taliban's conquest of Afghanistan and the collapse of the Afghan security forces. But Biden stands by his decision to withdraw from the country, despite the likely humanitarian catastrophe that it has set off, Sullivan told ABC's "Good Morning America."

  • "We spent 20 years, tens of billions of dollars training the [Afghan security forces], giving them equipment, giving them support of U.S. forces, for 20 years," Sullivan said.
  • "The question facing the president back in April, and again as we've gone forward, is should U.S. men and women be put into the middle of another country's civil war when their own army won't fight to defend them? And his answer to that question was no."

What's next: Sullivan said that the U.S. fully intends to continue evacuating Afghans who assisted the U.S. in the war effort via the international airport in Kabul, where scenes of chaos have erupted as thousands attempt to flee the country. He added that Americans can expect to hear from Biden "soon."

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