President Biden said he doesn't believe the Taliban have changed but are going through what he described as "an existential crisis" in their apparent quest for legitimacy on the world stage.
In an interview that aired Thursday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Biden whether he believed the Taliban — who seized control of Afghanistan after sweeping into Kabul on Sunday — have changed.
"No," 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? I'm not sure they do."
Stephanopoulos asked the president whether the Taliban cared more about "their beliefs" than their standing in the world.
"Well, they do," Biden replied. "But they also care about whether they have food to eat, whether they have an income ... 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."
"I'm not counting on any of that," the president added. "But that is part of what I think is going on right now. ... I'm not sure I would have predicted, George, nor would you or anyone else, that when we decided to leave, that they'd provide safe passage for Americans to get out."
During a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman said that no foreigners, including Americans, would be harmed on Afghan soil.
"I would like to assure the international community, including the U.S., that nobody will be harmed in Afghanistan," said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. "We don't have any grudges."
Mujahid also said that the Taliban was committed to the rights of women within the framework of Sharia, or Islamic law, while vowing to ensure the security of foreign embassies, international organizations and aid agencies operating there.
U.S. officials say they remain skeptical of the Taliban's promises while they work to evacuate tens of thousands of American citizens and Afghan allies from Afghanistan.
"When it comes to the Taliban, we are going to look [at] their actions, rather than listen to their words," State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that there have been no "hostile interactions" between the Taliban and U.S. troops or American citizens getting through to the airport. But reports indicate that Afghans trying to evacuate have been met by Taliban resistance.
In the same interview with Stephanopoulos, Biden continued to defend his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan despite the chaos on the ground.
“We’re gonna go back in hindsight and look," Biden said. "But the idea that somehow there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don't know how that happens.”
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