White House defends helicopter evacuation from US Embassy after Biden said it wouldn't happen

Last month, the president assured Americans that the Taliban would not storm the U.S. Embassy in Kabul the same way the North Vietnamese stormed the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1975. 


“The Taliban is not the south — the North Vietnamese army,” Biden said last month. “They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability.” 

“There is going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan,” Biden continued. “It is not at all comparable.” 

But over the weekend, as the security situation in Kabul worsened, U.S. troops flew helicopters to the embassy in Kabul, rescuing diplomats as the Taliban stormed the building. 

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday defended the move during an interview with NBC News’ “Today,” saying, “To be fair, the helicopter has been the mode of transport from our embassy to the airport for the last 20 years.” 

“That is how we move people,” Sullivan said. 


“Today” host Savannah Guthrie pressed Sullivan Monday morning, saying that it was not the mechanism but rather the “last-minute scramble” of the U.S. government, after the president had offered assurances that would not be the case.

Sullivan replied: “It is certainly the case that the speed in which cities fell was much greater than anyone anticipated.” 

“It’s a very dire situation when you see the United States embassy being evacuated,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said. “In fact, you just had President Biden a few days ago saying you wouldn’t see helicopters evacuating the embassy like Saigon, and yet, here we are. This is President Biden’s Saigon moment, and unfortunately, it was very predictable.” 

Heavily armed Taliban fighters swept into Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul on Sunday after the government collapsed, and the Afghani president fled the country, signaling the end of the United States’ 20-year effort to rebuild the nation after the withdrawal of the U.S. military from the region. 

The Taliban is pushing to restore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the formal name of the country under the Taliban rule before the militants were ousted by U.S-led forces in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, which were orchestrated by al-Qaida while it was being sheltered by the Taliban. 

Last week, though, as the Taliban seized major provinces throughout the country, the Biden administration assessed that Kabul could fall to the Taliban within 90 days. A prior CIA assessment months ago said Kabul could fall in six months, however, officials last week said that prediction was cut in half. 

The White House, at the time, said the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces had “what they need” to “fight back.”  

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