The Pentagon’s top spokesperson acknowledged Friday that there was a “deteriorating security situation” in Afghanistan following the US troop withdrawal — despite President Biden downplaying the consequences.
“What we have seen is a deteriorating security situation on the ground, no question about that, that the Taliban continues to take district centers,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told CNN.
Kirby’s comments come after Taliban officials claimed Friday that the Sunni Muslim insurgent group had taken control of 85 percent of territory in the country.
Kirby insisted he was “not in a position to quantify or to validate” the Taliban’s assertion but admitted that “we are seeing them continue to advance on district centers around the country, and it is concerning.”
However, the retired Navy admiral quickly tempered his comments, adding that claiming territory “doesn’t mean you can sustain that or keep it over time.”
“Nobody can say with certainty, but I think the president’s right that it’s not a foregone conclusion, and nobody should think it’s a foregone conclusion, that the Taliban are just going to swiftly take over the whole country,” the Pentagon spokesman said.
On Thursday, Biden defended the decision to end America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan and toned down concerns that the Taliban will restore their Islamic fundamentalist rule.
“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” he said in remarks in the White House East Room.
“The mission was accomplished in that we got Osama bin Laden and terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world,” the president added.
Biden’s decision to remove US troops has bipartisan support, but also faces bipartisan opposition.
Meanwhile, Kirby pointed out the other support the US was offering the war-torn nation — both financial and military — while also arguing that it was imperative for the Afghan forces to stand up for themselves now.
“We’re giving them another 30-plus Black Hawk helicopters here, two coming this month, as well as other strike aircraft. They’ve got modern weaponry. They’ve had training and the ability to be in the field with American forces much over the last 20 years,” Kirby said.
“They’ve got the capacity. They’ve got the capability. Now it’s time to have that will.”
The US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan remains in motion, a process on which Biden placed a Sept. 11 deadline but is nearly complete as of July.
Biden announced that deadline in April, offering US troops an additional four months from former President Donald Trump’s order to withdraw all troops from the nation by May 1.
Critics of the move have cautioned that it could lead to the creation of a new ISIS, as President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq did in 2011.