Pentagon discusses 'deeply concerning' Taliban violence as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan

During a press briefing on Friday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby answered questions on the recent advancement of Taliban forces in Afghanistan ahead of the planned withdrawal of all U.S. military forces by Aug. 31.

Video Transcript

- As we've seen the different provincial capitals fall, is the Department of Defense surprised at how quickly it seems that the Afghan National Army has collapsed under Taliban pressure?

JOHN KIRBY: We are certainly concerned by the speed with which the Taliban has been moving. And as we've said from the very beginning, that this is and it still is a moment for Afghan national security and defense forces, as well as their political leadership. No outcome has to be inevitable here.

I'm not going to speculate about surprise. We're obviously watching this just like you're watching this, and seeing it happen in real time. And it's deeply concerning.

- What about the lack of resistance that they may face in Kabul? Is there a concern that the Afghan military will not fight for Kabul?

JOHN KIRBY: That's a question for Afghan leadership to determine for themselves. Obviously, as I've said from the beginning, we want to see the will, and the political leadership, the military leadership that's required in the field. We still want to see that, and we hope to see that. But whether it happens or not, whether it pans out or not, that's really for the Afghans to decide.

- John, many times this week you've said the Afghan forces had the advantage. What proof can you offer as the Taliban have taken over now vast majorities of the country and they've now surrounded Kabul?

JOHN KIRBY: That the Taliban have moved with the speed with which they have and that the resistance that they have faced has been insufficient to stop those-- to check those advances-- does not mean, Lucas, that the advantages aren't still there. You have to use it. You have to be willing to apply it.

- Is there any chance, John, you're saying that they have all the advantages as they're getting crushed on the battlefield. It makes no sense to say they have the advantage. The Taliban appear to have all the advantages right now.

JOHN KIRBY: Lucas, I appreciate the effort again. They have greater numbers. They have an Air Force. A capable Air Force, which by the way, is flying more airstrikes than we are, every day. They have modern equipment. They have organizational structure. They have the benefit of the training that we have provided them over 20 years. They have the material, the physical, the tangible advantages. It's time now to use those advantages.

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