Politics

Biden Adviser: Afghan Army Lacked Resolve

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan takes questions during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 7, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday said that the administration had been surprised by the “unexpected speed” with which the Taliban was able to take over Afghanistan, though he said President Biden stands by his decision to withdraw U.S. troops.

Sullivan’s comments came during an appearance on Good Morning America on Monday, one day after Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country as Taliban militants entered the capital city of Kabul, signaling the official collapse of the government.

Just last week, ahead of the fall of the capital, the Biden administration believed Kabul could fall to the Taliban within 90 days; an earlier assessment by the CIA months ago warned the city could fall in six months.

“It’s certainly the case that the speed with which cities fell was much greater than anyone anticipated including the Afghans, including many of the analysts of who looked hard at this problem,” Sullivan said.

“Part of the reason for that is because at the end of the day, despite the fact that we spent 20 years and tens of billions of dollars to give the best equipment, the best training and the best capacity to the Afghan national security forces, we could not give them the will,” he added. “And they ultimately decided that they would not fight for Kabul and they would not fight for the country, and that opened the door to the Taliban to come into Kabul very rapidly.”

Yet Sullivan failed to acknowledge that Biden had chosen to withdraw American forces in the middle of fighting season and a gathering Taliban offensive, without any other U.S. base in the region or any substitute for U.S. air support or the American contractors who service Afghan planes, as noted by National Review‘s editors.

Sullivan said he believes “the worst-case scenario” for the U.S. would be a situation where the country was “adding back in thousands and thousands of troops to fight and die in a civil war in Afghanistan when the Afghan army wasn’t prepared to fight itself.”

“That was the alternative choice Joe Biden faced,” he said, adding that the president was left with “bad choices.”

He said “no amount” of training, equipment, money or time spent would put the Afghan army in a position to succeed.

“The choice he made was to bring U.S. forces home, to get us out of that civil war, to get our diplomats out of the embassy and to ultimately ask the Afghans to step up and fight for themselves,” Sullivan said. “It is heartbreaking to see what’s happening in Kabul, but the president had to make the best possible choice he could and he stands by that decision.”

All U.S. evacuation flights from Kabul’s international airport were temporarily suspended on Monday after hundreds of Afghans flooded the tarmac, desperate to evacuate the country and escape the Taliban, according to reports. Seven people died in the chaos, according to the Associated Press.

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