Updated Aug 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden hasn't ruled out sending more troops to Kabul, national security adviser says

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that President Biden hasn't ruled sending more troops to the airport in Kabul, but "at the moment, we believe we have sufficient forces on the ground.”

The big picture: The president's senior national security team made the rounds on the Sunday political talk shows to explain — and defend — the Biden administration's handling of the ongoing turbulence in Afghanistan.

  • "At the moment, we believe we have sufficient forces on the ground, but every single day the president asks his military commanders ... whether they need additional resources, additional troops. So far, the answer has been 'no,' but he will ask again today," Sullivan said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
  • When asked whether he would advise the president to extend the deadline if American and Afghan allies aren't safely out of the country by Aug. 31, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: "As we approach that deadline, we'll make a recommendation to the president."
  • "In terms of what we'll be able to accomplish going forward, we can't place a specific figure on exactly what we'll be able to do. But I'll just tell you that we're going to try to exceed expectations and do as much as we can," Austin told host Martha Raddatz on ABC's "This Week."

On terrorism: When asked about reports surrounding ISIS concerns at the Kabul airport, Sullivan said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the threat "is real, acute and persistent."

  • The president and his national security advisers met on Saturday and "discussed the security situation in Afghanistan and counterterrorism operations, including ISIS-K," a White House official said.
  • “Since 9/11, our capacity to deal with terrorism effectively in places where we don't have boots on the ground has grown immensely,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on "Face the Nation."
  • “And we now are able to do things that we couldn't do 20 years ago. If this threat reemerges in Afghanistan, we'll deal with it,” he added.
  • The situation in Afghanistan “has created a global crisis, quite frankly,” former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said on "Face the Nation." He added: “It has emboldened violent Islamic radicals. I think we're all going to see the fallout of that, certainly in Pakistan.”

On missed opportunities: Austin said on "This Week" that "nobody predicted that, you know, the government would fall in 11 days."

  • "What you do is you adjust, and we've adjusted," Sullivan said on "Meet the Press."
  • When asked why the U.S. left Bagram before evacuating civilians, Sullivan said: “Bagram is an immense facility that would be difficult to secure over time and put our troops at risk.”
  • He added that it did not make logistical sense because Bagram is located outside of Kabul.

On the Taliban and Americans in Kabul: Austin confirmed on "This Week" that Americans have had “tough encounters” with the Taliban in trying to get through to the airport.

  • On Friday, Biden said his administration has been in "constant contact" with the Taliban to "ensure that civilians have safe passage to the airport."
  • “We’ve made it clear to the Taliban that any attack, any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with swift and forceful response."
  • Blinken said on "Face the Nation" that U.S. contact with Taliban has been “very important to making sure that we can actually advance our own interests in getting people out safely and effectively as possible." He added: “They are in control of Kabul. That is the reality.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

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