Biden yet to speak with world leaders after fall of Kabul
President Biden has yet to speak with his foreign counterparts since the Taliban took the Afghanistan capital of Kabul, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday, as the White House faces questions from some allies about the repercussions of its withdrawal from the country.
“He has not yet spoken with any other world leaders,” Sullivan said during a briefing with reporters, noting that he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have held regular calls with their own counterparts.
“Right now, the main issue is an operational issue,” Sullivan said. “It’s about how we coordinate with them to help them get their people out. And we are operating through logistical channels and policy channels to try and make that happen.”
Blinken on Monday spoke with his counterparts in China and Russia about the security situation in Afghanistan.
The Taliban in recent weeks swept through Afghanistan, capturing major cities and provincial capitals en route to swiftly taking the capital on Sunday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country a short time after the Taliban took over Kabul, marking the collapse of the country’s government.
Biden has been at Camp David since Friday, save for a brief return to the White House on Monday to deliver remarks on the situation in Afghanistan. He has been briefed daily by his national security team and military advisers on the latest developments amid a chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces, personnel and Afghan civilians.
The pullout has been marred by images of civilians scrambling to cling to military planes evacuating citizens and logjams in the bureaucratic process of granting special visas to civilians who aided the U.S. war effort.
Biden stressed on Monday that he stood behind his decision to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan, stating he would not oversee a third decade of involvement there. He largely avoided discussing why the withdrawal has been so messy, instead blaming Afghan security forces for failing to fight on their own and arguing the government there discouraged early evacuations to avoid creating a sense of panic.
But the withdrawal, which has led to questions about the fate of women and girls under Taliban rule and what will become of those who assisted the U.S., has spurred concerns from global allies.
Reporters peppered Sullivan with questions about what the Afghanistan withdrawal means for troops stationed in South Korea, for Australian leaders frustrated by the pullout and for those in Taiwan worried it could lead to Chinese aggression.
“We believe our commitment to our allies and partners are sacrosanct, as they always have been,” Sullivan said.
He grew emotional at one point speaking about the sacrifices of Americans in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, noting thousands of troops died there and thousands more were injured.
“The idea that there was a lack of sacrifice on the part of the American people is belied by rows of headstones at Arlington cemetery,” Sullivan said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked later in the same briefing about Biden’s lack of contact with world leaders and suggested the administration’s focus was elsewhere for the time being.
“If there is a benefit in the president picking up the phone and calling a world leader, he will certainly do that and I expect he will do that in the coming days,” she said.