Joe Biden: Taliban Going Through 'Existential Crisis,' Hasn't Changed

2021-08-19 08:38:48

President Joe Biden, in his first sit-down interview since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, said he doesn’t believe the militant group has changed and isn’t expecting it to, which is why it’s important to evacuate all Americans and “as many” Afghan women as possible.

“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. I’m not sure they do,” he told George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.” 

The ultraconservative Islamist group appears more committed to its beliefs than to being internationally recognized, Biden said, but he added that it must secure diplomatic support in order to survive.

“They also care about whether they have food to eat, whether they have an income that can … run an economy, they care about whether they can hold together a society that they say they care so much about,” he said. “I’m not counting on any of that.”

Biden said he has discussed helping Afghan women evacuate their country and has directed U.S. troops to put them — and their families, if possible — on planes. But he acknowledged that he can’t help everyone.

“The idea that we’re able to deal with the rights of women around the world by military force is not rational. Not rational. Look what’s happened to the Uighurs in western China. Look what’s happening in other parts of the world,” the president said. “There are a lot of places where women are being subjugated. The way to deal with that is not with a military invasion. The way to deal with that is putting economic, diplomatic, and international pressure on them to change their behavior.” 

A Taliban spokesperson on Tuesday promised that women’s rights will be respected, within the norms of Islamic law, and that the group’s insurgents would not exact revenge on anyone who worked with the previous government or foreign forces. Many Afghans remain skeptical, however.

Biden admitted to Stephanopoulos that his administration hadn’t anticipated the Taliban making evacuation efforts as difficult and it has.

“Look, one of the things we didn’t know is what the Taliban would do in terms of trying to keep people from getting out ― what they would do,” he said. “What are they doing now? They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out.” But he said “we’re having some more difficulty” helping people in Afghanistan who have provided support to the U.S. military over the years. 

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