The Taliban face an “existential" choice about how they are seen by the rest of the world after their sweeping military victory in Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden said.
“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 said in an ABC News interview that aired Thursday.
The insurgency, which outlasted a combined US-led international force and the now defunct Western-backed Afghan government in 20 years of war, will now face different problems, he predicted.
While the Taliban is motivated by a powerful Islamist agenda, “they also care about whether they have food to eat, whether they have an income that they can provide… and run an economy," Biden said. “They care about whether or not they can hold together the society."
The US president who defended the chaotic exit of the final US troops, foreigners and Afghan allies after the Taliban victory, said he was “not counting" on the Taliban to shift their priorities.
On the other hand, “I’m not sure I would have predicted" the current scenes where Taliban leaders are cooperating with the US military to ensure safe passage to the evacuation for American citizens, he said.
Should anti-US terrorism groups like al-Qaeda reestablish themselves in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, the United States retains “an over-the-horizon capability to take them out," Biden said, referring to missile and other long-distance military strikes.
For now the threat is far greater in places like Syria and east Africa “than it is from the mountains of Afghanistan," he said.
Biden said that war is not the answer to growing fears for the human rights of women in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
“The idea that we’re able to deal with the rights of women around the world by military force is not rational," Biden said in the ABC News interview.
Referring to the Uighur ethnic minority in China and other areas of the world facing extreme human rights abuses, Biden said “the way to deal with that is not with a military invasion."
“There are a lot of places where women are being subjugated," he said. “The way to deal with that is putting economic, diplomatic and international pressure on them to change their behavior."
Biden told ABC that many women were trying to leave Afghanistan through the US evacuation at Kabul’s airport.
The president said he told advisors to “get them out, get their families out."
“As many as we can get out we should," he said.
US Suspends Arms Sale
Meanwhile, the Biden administration suspended all arms sales to the government of Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country. In a notice to defence contractors posted Wednesday, the State Department’s Political/Military Affairs Bureau said pending or undelivered arms transfers to Afghanistan had been put under review.
In light of rapidly evolving circumstances in Afghanistan, the Directorate of Defense Sales Controls is reviewing all pending and issued export licenses and other approvals to determine their suitability in furthering world peace, national security and the foreign policy of the United States, it said. The notice said it would issue updates for defense equipment exporters in the coming days.
Videos of Taliban fighters parading in US-made armored vehicles, wielding US-supplied firearms and climbing on American Black Hawk helicopters after the defeat of Afghan government forces have embarrassed the White House.
The Islamist insurgents, who easily captured control of the country after a months-long campaign, seized huge amounts of weaponry, equipment and munitions from the Afghan armed forces, most of it supplied over the past two decades by Washington.