CNN anchor Brianna Keilar confronted National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday morning over claims President Joe Biden made on Friday about the Afghanistan withdrawal, wondering aloud why the president was “misleading with his words.”
Amid the evacuation crisis in Afghanistan following the government’s collapse and the Taliban’s return to power, the president promised during a Friday press conference to evacuate all Americans from the country while defending the chaotic withdrawal from the country.
Biden, at one point, insisted that his administration has seen “no indication” that Americans “haven’t been able to get through the [Kabul] airport,” adding that the U.S. made an agreement with the Taliban for safe passage. Several news outlets, however, quickly fact-checked the president’s comments, noting that reports contradict his assertions—and the U.S. embassy in Kabul even warned American citizens in the area that “United States government cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport.”
In the same press conference, Biden also claimed that al Qaeda is “gone” from Afghanistan, even though the United Nations Security Council determined in June that the terror organization still has a presence in nearly half of the Afghanistan provinces and the Department of Defense recently reported that “the Taliban continued to maintain its relationship with al Qaeda, providing safe haven for the terrorist group in Afghanistan.”
Replaying Biden’s remarks during her interview with Sullivan on CNN’s State of the Union, Keilar pressed him to explain the president’s narrative.
“We know that’s not true,” she declared. “We know there are many instances where that has not been true. And the Pentagon has acknowledged that as well. He also said that al Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan. But, of course, from the U.N., from the Joint Chiefs, we know that is also untrue. Why is he misleading with his words here?”
With regard to Biden’s comment about al Qaeda, Sullivan said that the intelligence community has said they do not believe the terror group “represent a threat to the United States homeland.” He said Biden was referring to this current threat assessment, adding that the president “clearly said” that al Qaeda could “in the future” pose a threat to the U.S.
Keilar, meanwhile, pushed Sullivan to respond to the idea that Americans weren’t having any problems getting through the Taliban—and he acknowledged the issues in evacuating American citizens, largely chalking them up to logistics.
“What the president has consistently directed his team to do, and what he has explained, in fact, in that very press conference, is that if there are any issues with the movement of Americans through the city, we have dealt with those cases one by one and resolved them, when that information is presented to us,” he said.
“There is another challenge, though, Brianna, which your team has reported on quite effectively, which is Americans who then get to the airport have had a hard time getting inside because of the very large crowds of people outside,” Sullivan concluded. “That is a logistical challenge we’ve been working on over the course of the past 72 hours. We now believe we have alternative methods of getting Americans into the airport. That’s what we’re executing as we speak.”
Sullivan wasn’t the only Biden administration official to face tough questions. During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was relentlessly grilled by anchor Chris Wallace on Biden’s al Qaeda assertions as well as the president’s insistence that he hasn’t heard any criticism on the chaotic withdrawal from America’s international allies.
Calling Biden’s remarks “flat wrong,” Wallace then aired statements from several European politicians and leaders lambasting the Afghanistan withdrawal before asking Blinken: “Does the president not know what’s going on?”