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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."

Go deeper: Taliban declare victory in Afghanistan

Go deeper

Oct 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Bob Woodward shares his final interview with "reluctant warrior" Colin Powell

An undated photo of former Secretary of State Colin Powell at his home in Virginia. Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state who died on Monday at age 84, opened up to journalist Bob Woodward about his life, legacy and recent health problems in one of his last interviews.

Of note: In a Washington Post article and audio shared Monday, Powell, who died from COVID-19 complications, responded to Woodward's concerns upon learning in their July interview of his Parkinson's disease and multiple myeloma cancer by saying: "Don't feel sorry for me, for God's sakes!"

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.