National security adviser Jake Sullivan defended the withdrawal from Afghanistan that has left at least 100 Americans behind, emphasizing the Biden administration’s commitment to getting those remaining people out of the country through diplomatic means.
“We continue our mission to get them out, it’s just that it has shifted from a military mission to a diplomatic mission. And we have considerable leverage over the Taliban to ensure that any remaining American citizen will be able to get out,” he said during an appearance on “Good Morning America” Tuesday, noting that between 5,500 and 6,000 Americans were evacuated.
The 100 who are left, he said, were contacted “repeatedly” during the evacuations to come to the airport or rally point.
But, he continued, “The small number that remain, we are committed to getting out and we will work through every available diplomatic means with the enormous leverage that we have and that the international community has to make that happen.”
Pressed on criticism from Sen. Tom Cotton and others who say Biden left behind Americans and other vetted Afghan allies, Sullivan said Biden made decisions in the best interest of the US and noted he got “unanimous recommendations” from the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, all of his civilian advisors, all of his commanders on the ground, and all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “that the best way to protect our forces and the best way to help those Americans was to transition this mission at the end of the day.”
Those who are criticizing are not are not the ones who have to sit in the Situation Room and make the hard calls about the threats that we face and the objectives we’re trying to obtain,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also would not rule out giving the Taliban aid in the future. He said that the US will continue to provide humanitarian assistance “directly” to the Afghan people, which, he said, would not flow through the Taliban but through international institutions like the World Health Organization and other nongovernmental organizations.
But, going forward, aid to Afghanistan through the Taliban directly will be conditioned upon the Taliban’s behavior, including whether the remaining Americans are able to safely evacuate.
“That will be about the Taliban’s actions. It will be about whether they follow through on their commitments, their commitments to safe passage for Americans and Afghan allies, their commitment to not allow Afghanistan to be a base from which terrorists can attack the United States or any other country, their commitments with respect to upholding their international obligations. It’s going to be up to them. And we will wait and see by their actions how we end up responding in terms of the economic and development assistance,” he said.