U.S. Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily press conference on the situation in Afghanistan at the White House in Washington, DC on August 17, 2021.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images
Newly empowered Taliban militants have advised the US that they are ready to provide safe passage for civilians attempting to flee Afghanistan via Kabul International Airport, the White House said Tuesday.
“We intend to keep them to that commitment,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters amid a spate of questions about the Biden government’s handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was in chaos as Islamist insurgents swiftly their West-backed government.
Sullivan also said the “chaotic” situation in the Afghan capital made it premature to speculate whether the Taliban could form a government that the US would recognize.
Read more about CNBC’s political coverage:
When the Taliban invaded Kabul, thousands of Afghans rushed to Hamid Karzai International Airport, swarmed on the runway and crowded around planes. Some fell to their deaths desperately trying to escape the country by clinging to a plane as they took off.
The evacuation flights at the airport resumed on Tuesday. Sullivan said the airfield is secured and the White House expects military cargo planes departing from Kabul to pick up an average of around 300 people each once the evacuation flow picks up.
Sullivan also admitted having received reports of people being “turned away or pushed back or even beaten” by the Taliban as they tried to pass checkpoints towards the airport.
“We are taking up this in a channel with the Taliban to try to solve these problems. And we are concerned that this will evolve in the coming days, ”said Sullivan. He added that most people get through the gate with no problem.
The astounding speed of the Taliban’s takeover and the collapse of the former Afghan government surprised even the Biden government, which has come under fire from critics across the political spectrum who say the disastrous situation is the result of a hasty and botched retreat.
A member of the Taliban troops (L) sits on an armored vehicle in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021.
Stringer | Reuters
Legislators from both parties, including Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Bob Menendez, DN.J., have called for an investigation into the government’s attempt to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war.
When implementing the “flawed plan”, Biden “obviously did not correctly assess the effects of a quick US withdrawal,” Menendez said in a press release on Tuesday afternoon.
The Pentagon’s goal is to bring between 5,000 and 9,000 people out of Kabul every day, Major General Henry Taylor told the U.S. Army, a logistics specialist of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a news conference on Tuesday.
Taylor said about 4,000 U.S. soldiers were stationed in the capital to assist with evacuation efforts and provide security.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul, which was fully evacuated when the Taliban evacuated the city, advised aspiring evacuees on Monday to fill out a form and get local accommodation while waiting for an email with further instructions.
Some of Sullivan’s remarks in the controversial briefing echoed President Joe Biden’s rhetoric from a major speech the day before when he defended the decision to pull America out of the country as the better of two bad options.
In this address, Biden took responsibility for the move and said: “The money ends with me” – although he also spoke at length about the unwillingness of the US-trained Afghan army to fight the Taliban.
When asked if Biden was also responsible for the heartbreaking panic and chaos scenes at Kabul airport, Sullivan said the president possesses every good decision and “every decision that does not lead to perfect results” regarding the withdrawal.