President Joe Biden said the Taliban are in the midst of an "existential crisis" about their role on the international stage but that he didn’t believe the group had fundamentally changed its course.
"Let me put it this way: I think they’re going through sort of an existential crisis about do they want to be recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government," Biden told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News in an interview that aired Thursday morning. "I’m not sure they do."
He also said "no one's being killed" in Afghanistan despite reports of at least seven deaths amid the chaos at Kabul's airport and of Taliban beating people on their way to the airport.
Biden’s comments point to a looming question of whether the U.S. will recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government after they swiftly took control of the country, including the capital city of Kabul. The U.S. has already taken steps to block money from flowing to the Taliban and could opt to negotiate relief from economic sanctions if they agree to block international terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and protect the rights of women and minorities.
But any dealings with the Taliban will be politically fraught for Biden, who has already faced widespread criticism on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers from both parties are calling for more information about the crisis. The House Intelligence Committee is to receive a classified briefing on Afghanistan on Monday from representatives of several intelligence agencies, according to an official familiar with the plans.
Biden this week has been defending his high-stakes bet that U.S. voters want to end American’s 20-year war in Afghanistan and will forgive him for the searing images of desperate Afghans looking to flee. In earlier excerpts from the interview that aired Wednesday, Biden said U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan until all Americans are able to leave the country -- even if it takes longer than his Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw.
Biden and Pentagon leaders said that American intelligence assessments didn’t foresee such a rapid advance by the Taliban and collapse of the Afghan military, prompting the U.S. to race to evacuate its citizens and Afghans who aided U.S. troops.
Many Americans were shocked by the drama that unfolded this week in Kabul, where desperate Afghans tried to cling to the side of a U.S. military plane as it taxied down a runway, with some plunging to their deaths as it took flight minutes later.
Biden, speaking in the interview, said there had been no consensus in the intelligence community that the Taliban would take over, and no prediction it would happen so fast. He also said he may not have forseen that the Taliban would allow American citizens to evacuate the country safely, citing that as an example of how unpredictable the group could be.
Biden has also faced criticism from European allies, who have expressed frustration over not being consulted as the situation deteriorated. In the interview, Biden said he had since spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and added that he would be speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron.
In the earlier excerpts, Biden repeated that he stood by his decision to withdraw, and said he faced a decision of whether to put more U.S. troops’ lives at risk or pull out.
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