National Security

Biden aide: Ability to collect daily intel in Afghanistan ‘will diminish’

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Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, acknowledged Thursday that the U.S. government’s “ability to collect intelligence on a day-to-day basis” within Afghanistan “will diminish” with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.

Sullivan in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” confirmed analysis by CIA Director William Burns, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that it was “simply a fact” that the “ability to collect and act on threats will diminish” with Biden’s plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by fall.

However, Sullivan argued Thursday that “our ability to protect the American homeland, in my view, will not diminish,” even if access to daily intelligence on “the comings and goings of actors within Afghanistan will diminish.” 

“That’s a big difference,” Sullivan told co-host John Berman. “From our perspective, we can set up the kind of scenario in which we can protect this country without remaining at war in Afghanistan for a third decade.”

Biden on Wednesday outlined his plan to completely withdraw troops from Afghanistan and officially end America’s longest war by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

“I believed that our presence in Afghanistan should be focused on the reason we went in the first place: to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again. We did that, we accomplished that objective,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “I’ve concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home.” 

The decision has prompted divided responses from lawmakers, with some Republicans and Democrats arguing that the situation in the Middle East could worsen if U.S. troops are removed too quickly. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a frequent critic of efforts to pull U.S. troops from combat zones, said Wednesday that he was “heartbroken” that Biden chose a “high-risk strategy.”

“I know people are frustrated by the length of the war, the money we spent, the lives we lost, and all I would say is never forget the enemy,” Graham said. “It takes two to end the war, folks. They’re not close to quitting.”

The September withdrawal goal pushes back a May 1 deadline established in last year’s agreement between the Taliban and the Trump administration.

U.S. military officials have argued that the Taliban has not met the terms of their commitments, including denying safe haven for al Qaeda and other terrorists intent on attacking the West, though Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. “will hold the Taliban accountable towards commitment not to allow any terrorist to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Thursday, where he reportedly met with Afghan leaders in Kabul to strengthen the U.S. commitment to a peaceful and successful troop withdrawal.

Tags Afghanistan Afghanistan Antony Blinken Biden biden administration CNN Jake Sullivan Joe Biden Lindsey Graham September 11 U.S. Intelligence White House William Burns

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