Biden says he doesn't believe Taliban have changed

President Joe Biden said Thursday he doesn't believe the Taliban have changed. Biden here speaks at the White House on August 18.

By Kate Sullivan, Allie Malloy and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

(CNN) -- President Joe Biden said Thursday he doesn't believe the Taliban have changed, as the people of Afghanistan and the international community wait to see how the militants who have seized control of Afghanistan will govern.

"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," Biden told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview aired Thursday.

Stephanopoulos replied: "They care about their beliefs more."

"Well, they do. But they also care about whether they have food to eat, whether they have an income that 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," Biden said.

The President continued: "I'm not counting on any of that. But that is part of what I think is going on right now in terms of, I'm not sure I would've 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."

The Taliban have tried to present themselves as different from when they ruled in the past, and have claimed to be committed to the peace process, an inclusive government and said they are willing to maintain some rights for women. However, reports have emerged from the country that Taliban fighters are beating Afghans who are trying to reach the Kabul airport to escape the country and CNN's Clarissa Ward and her team were threatened with violence by Taliban militia on camera Wednesday.

The Sunni Islamist organization imposed strict rules, particularly for women, when they took control of Kabul in 1996. Women weren't allowed to study or work, had to wear head-to-toe coverings and were forbidden from traveling alone. TV, music and non-Islamic holidays were also banned.

Biden said in the interview that aired Thursday: "The idea that we're able to deal with the rights of women around the world by military force is not rational. Not rational. Look what's happened to the Uyghurs in western China. Look what's happening in other parts of the world."

"Look what's happening in, you know, in the Congo. I mean, there are a lot of places where women are being subjugated. The way to deal with that is not with a military invasion. The way to deal with that is putting economic, diplomatic, and national, international pressure on them to change their behavior," Biden said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a news conference this week that the Taliban's "thoughts, ideology, beliefs" remained unchanged since the 1990s, but said there were some differences when it came to maturity, their experience and vision. He said the rights of women would be determined within the framework of Sharia law, and that the international community should respect the Taliban's "core values."

Mujahid also said the Taliban would refrain from retributory violence against those who supported the US-backed Afghan government over the past 20 years. At the same time, the Taliban were also firing gunshots on the outer ring of the Kabul airport, as they attempted to disperse crowds of people trying to gain entry.

The US and its allies are frantically evacuating their personnel from Kabul's airport after the Taliban seized control of the city. Thousands of desperate Afghans remain stranded under Taliban rule.

Biden has instructed top military commanders who are facilitating the evacuation from Kabul that he doesn't want to see any empty seats on planes, according to a senior official familiar with the directive.

The President, who met with senior staff in the Situation Room on Wednesday, made clear he wants every flight leaving the airport filled to capacity. An official cautioned that, given the chaotic nature of the evacuation, the presidential directive doesn't always mean it will happen for every flight.

Gen. Hank Taylor, the deputy director of the Joint Staff for Regional Operations, told reporters Thursday that in the last 24 hours, 13 C-17 US military airplanes arrived in Kabul with "additional troops and equipment" and 12 C-17 military planes left.

The White House said on Wednesday that the US military evacuated approximately 1,800 individuals on 10 C-17s, although the Pentagon has said its goal is to evacuate 5,000 to 9,000 people a day. Since August 14, the US government has evacuated nearly 6,000 people.

Biden suggested in part of the ABC interview aired on Wednesday that he's willing to keep US forces in Afghanistan until all American citizens who want to leave are out of the country, but stopped short of making the same commitment to the United States' Afghan partners.

The President said Americans should expect for all US citizens in Afghanistan to be evacuated by August 31, the deadline the administration has set for ending the nation's longest war.

The-CNN-Wire
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