Biden says Taliban is going through an 'existential crisis' over image

Biden says the Taliban has NOT changed and is going through a ‘sort of an existential crisis’ over ‘whether they want to be seen as a legitimate government’

  • Biden spoke out Wednesday in his first interview since Kabul fell to the Taliban 
  • He avoided being pessimistic about the Taliban returning to their brutal 1996-2001 regime, claiming beyond their beliefs they also care about food and money
  • The president remained defiant that leaving Afghanistan was the right decision
  • Acknowledging the chaotic evacuation over the last week, Biden told George Stephanopoulos ‘getting out would be messy no matter when it occurred’
  • Taliban officials promised their new regime wouldn’t be as harsh as the last
  • However reports have emerged of violence toward Afghan civilians and killings
  • Biden said Taliban rule would be bad for women but also ‘there are a lotta places where women are being subjugated’ around the world


President Biden claimed in his interview on August 18 that chaos in Kabul was inevitable, but just six weeks ago at a White House briefing he said the Taliban takeover was ‘NOT inevitable’.

On the Taliban 

July 8: ‘The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely… it is not inevitable’. 

August 18: ‘The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens.’ 

On the Afghan army

July 8: ‘I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who more competent [than the Taliban] in terms of conducting war.’

August 18: ‘When you saw the significant collapse of the Afghan troops we had trained, that was — you know I’m not — that’s what happened.’ 

The Taliban swept to power in Afghanistan in less than two weeks after they took their first provincial capital.

On the evacuation 

July 8: ‘Our military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31st. The drawdown is proceeding in a secure and orderly way’

August 18: ‘Americans should understand that we’re going to try to get [the evacuation] done before August 31.’ 

There are still around 15,000 Americans and allied citizens stranded in Afghanistan, with the Taliban deciding who can and can’t reach the airport. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: We don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people.’

On the Embassy

July 8: ‘There’s going to be no circumstance when you’re going to see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy. It’s not at all comparable [with Saigon].’ 

The US embassy was closed on Sunday, August 15 with staff and the US flag hastily evacuated by chinook helicopter from the roof.

On the Afghan government

July 8: ‘The Afghan leadership has the capacity to sustain the government in place.’   

August 18: ‘You had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government, get in a plane and taking off and going to another country.’ 

On Afghan translators

July 8:We can guarantee their safety.’

August 18: The Taliban control the area around Kabul airport and have shot and beaten crowds of people trying to get through for evacuation. 

Ex-US soldiers have said the lives of Afghans who helped the US are in grave danger and will likely be executed.

President Joe Biden says he doesn’t think the Taliban has changed since they last held power until 2001, but believes they’re going through an ‘existential crisis’ about their global image after they once again took control in Afghanistan after a quick and brutal takeover. 

Biden spoke out in depth Wednesday during his first interview after the US’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation. 

‘What happens now in Afghanistan? Do you believe the Taliban have changed?’ ABC News host George Stephanopoulos asked.

The president said no.

‘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 explained, adding ‘I’m not sure they do.’  

He claimed the militant Islamist group care about their held beliefs more than international legitimacy.

‘But they also care about whether they have food to eat, whether they have an income that they can provide for their f- that they can make any money and run an economy. They care about whether or not they can hold together the society that they in fact say they care so much about.’

 As an example Biden said he was surprised ‘that when we decided to leave, that [the Taliban] would provide safe passage for Americans to get out.’

The insurgents took Kabul on Sunday after a lightning offensive that lasted just days. 

Biden has faced bipartisan criticism over the US’s hasty withdrawal, but in the interview he stood by the decision and even said it should’ve happened a long time ago.

Seemingly acknowledging the chaos unfolding over the last week, he said ‘getting out would be messy no matter when it occurred.’

Taliban officials had pledged to allow anyone who wanted to leave Afghanistan – foreign nationals and Afghan civilians – were able to. 

They vowed a less brutal regime than when they last held the country from 1996 to 2001 and promised amnesty for people who worked with the US government.    

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime spokesman, held his first-ever public news conference to address global concerns.

He promised the Taliban would honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law, without elaborating. The Taliban have encouraged women to return to work and have allowed girls to return to school, handing out Islamic headscarves at the door. A female news anchor interviewed a Taliban official Monday in a TV studio.

But recent reports say the group controls the streets surrounding Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport – the last US and NATO-defended territory – and are cracking down on who can get in.   

Thousands of Afghans were packed Thursday between Taliban checkpoints and a US-imposed ring of steel around Kabul’s main airport, desperate to get aboard any flight out following the return of the hardline Islamist group, the Associated Press reports.

Unconfirmed reports on social media say several people have been killed as US forces and the Taliban struggle to contain the desperate throngs on their respective sides of an unofficial no-man’s land. 

In the ABC interview Biden acknowledged the US had the duty to get as many Afghans – particularly women – out of the country as possible. 

Biden was asked whether the Taliban has changed since the last time they had control over Afghanistan in a Wednesday ABC News interview

He told host George Stephanopoulos they had not, but were going through an ‘existential crisis’ about their role in the international community

‘But here’s the deal,’ he continued. ‘The idea that we’re able to deal with the rights of women around the world by military force is not rational.’ 

‘There are a lotta 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.’  

The Taliban celebrated Afghanistan’s Independence Day on Thursday by declaring they beat the United States

Biden said the Taliban care about food, money, and ‘whether they can hold together the society’ they are creating in Afghanistan

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime spokesman, promised the group’s regime wouldn’t be as brutal as it was 20 years ago

When asked about intelligence reports about the resurgence of Al Qaeda, Biden said it ‘could’ be sooner than the government’s initial prediction of 18 to 24 months after US withdrawal.

But he claimed the threat wouldn’t come from Afghanistan.

Biden’s ‘existential crisis’ comments have already received blowback on Twitter

‘The deal is the threat from Al Qaeda and their associate organizations is greater in other parts of the world to the United States,’ he said.

Biden’s comment on the Taliban’s ‘existential crisis’ earned some blowback on Twitter.

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton tweeted a video of the segment, adding ‘This can’t be real.’ 

‘You know who’s really going through an existential crisis? It isn’t the Taliban. They know exactly who they are,’ GOP Senate candidate Sean Parnell said. ‘It’s the 10,000 plus Americans you left behind with no way out.’

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