Tapper presses top Biden aide on Afghanistan: ‘How are you going to get those Americans out?’
CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday pressed President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on how the administration plans to help the numerous American citizens who remain in Afghanistan following the U.S. military withdrawal.
The Tuesday segment came after Biden said in an address from the White House Tuesday that the federal government had “no deadline” for helping out the remaining 100 to 200 U.S. citizens still believed to be in Afghanistan.
Tapper repeatedly questioned Sullivan on the issue, asking the top Biden aide why the remaining U.S. citizens were not able to get on the military evacuation flights out of Kabul over the past two weeks.
“How are you going to get those Americans out?” Tapper added.
Sullivan reiterated Biden’s comment earlier in the day that the U.S. government had reached out to Americans in Afghanistan 19 times since March telling them “to leave the country,” adding that the administration “offered them financial assistance to leave.”
The national security adviser said that “97 percent of the people we communicated with got to the airport and got out on planes.”
“There’s a variety of reasons for why those remaining folks didn’t,” he continued. “Some changed their mind at the last minute, some wanted to bring very large, extended family who were not Americans who couldn’t get through checkpoints.”
National security adviser Jake Sullivan on the diplomatic efforts to evacuate Americans who still remain Afghanistan:
“We have plenty of leverage with the Taliban to help effectuate the safe passage of any further Americans who want to leave.” pic.twitter.com/KHQIZeJon7
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) August 31, 2021
Sullivan noted that “the question the president ultimately faced was, ‘How long do I keep U.S. Marines in harm’s way with threats escalating hour by hour, how many more days do I do that?’ ”
“He ultimately decided it was right to end it and to shift to a diplomatic mission, and we have plenty of leverage with the Taliban to help effectuate the safe passage of any further Americans who want to leave Afghanistan,” he added.
Tapper continued to press Sullivan, asking him to provide specific details on how the evacuation efforts would continue without a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan for the first time in 20 years.
Sullivan explained that Americans and Afghan allies who qualify for Special Immigrant Visas will either be able to leave the country by air, or through traveling on foot into nearby countries.
“We’re working closely with other countries to get charter air flights going in the short term,” he said, adding that the administration was also “working with neighboring countries to be able to accept American citizens or legal permanent residents traveling by ground across borders to get them processed and then get them safely out of the country.”
Biden has received bipartisan criticism over his handling of the evacuations, with many arguing that troops should have remained in Afghanistan until all U.S. citizens were safely transported out.
However, the president defended his decision Tuesday, noting that his military and diplomatic advisers strongly recommended that removing U.S. soldiers would be the safest way to continue evacuations.
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