The chaos and loss of life occurring in Afghanistan were unavoidable, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday.
“When a civil war comes to an end with an opposing force marching on the capital, there are going to be scenes of chaos,” Mr. Sullivan said at the White House. “There are going to be lots of people leaving the country. That is not something that can be fundamentally avoided.”
Still, he defended the administration’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying the decision was “made based on the information we had at the time.”
President Biden has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats for mishandling the U.S. pullout as Afghanistan descends into mayhem. Since the withdrawal, Taliban militants have seized control over the country and the U.S. is scrambling to get Americans out of the war-torn country.
Mr. Sullivan insisted that the president faced several difficult choices about the Afghanistan withdrawal, pointing to the Taliban’s capture of Black Hawk helicopters the U.S. had provided to the Afghanistan security forces.
He said that the loss of the helicopters emphasizes the difficulty of navigating the Afghanistan situation because not providing the weapons would have strengthened the Taliban ahead of the U.S. exit.
“This is, I think, a very good example of the difficult choices a president faces,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Those Black Hawks were not given to the Taliban. They were given to the Afghan National Security Forces to be able to defend themselves at the specific request of [Afghan] President Ghani, who came to the Oval Office and asked for additional air capability among other things.”
Had Mr. Biden not provided the helicopters, Mr. Sullivan said, the Afghan National Security Force would not be able to use it to defend their country against the Taliban.
“Both of those options had risks,” he told reporters. “He had to choose and he made a choice.”
But Mr. Sullivan acknowledged that the U.S. military doesn’t have a full accounting of the weapons seized by the Taliban.
“We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materials has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” he said.