News and Commentary

Asked If U.S. Less Safe With Taliban Holding U.S. Weapons, Psaki Says Access To ‘Global Marketplace’ Gives U.S. Leverage
Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking at Monday’s White House press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, asked if Americans were less safe now because of American weaponry now in the hands of the Taliban, answered, “We have an enormous amount of leverage, including access to the global marketplace.” She also boasted, “We are not going to do anything that’s going to allow terrorists to grow or prosper in Afghanistan or any terrorist organization.”

NBC News’ Peter Alexander asked, “When we talk about as the U.S. prepares to leave, whether tonight or tomorrow, there are going to be billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. munitions, arms, military aircraft, armored vehicles that have fallen in the hands of the Taliban here, giving them new capabilities they didn’t have before this. Are Americans less safe now because the Taliban now has access to billions of dollars’ worth of American-made weaponry?”

“Well, let me impact your question a little bit, because the U.S. military, part of their retrograde effort is to reduce the amount of military equipment or apparatus that anyone on the ground has access to, Psaki responded. “ I’m not going to get into the details of how they do that, but that is part of their effort. I will also reiterate something that our national security adviser said just last week: We had to make an assessment several weeks ago about whether we’d provide materials to the Afghan national security forces so that they could fight the fight —obviously, they decided not to fight — or not. And we made the decision to provide them with that equipment and the material.”

“The third piece, I would note, that is very important here, is that we have not assessed whether any group on the ground, whether it’s ISIS-K or the Taliban, has the ability to attack the United States,” she posited. “We need to ensure that remains the case, but that is not a capability that we have assessed to be the case at this point in time. There’s a difference between the threat that is posed to U.S. men and women serving or people who are gathering outside of the gates of Kabul and whether these individuals can attack the United States.”

Alexander pressed, “So I guess the plain and simple question is acknowledging that you’re gonna try to limit what access they do have to some of the weaponry in ways that you can’t communicate here. But at the end of the day whether it’s not the United States that’s under risk as a function of this, are Americans around the globe, are Western interests now more at risk because the Taliban has new access to all this weaponry?”

“Well, again, Peter, I would say that the world will be watching; we have an enormous amount of leverage, including access to the global marketplace, which is not a small piece of leverage to the Taliban, who are now overseeing large swaths of Afghanistan,” Psaki answered. “ Certainly our objective was not to leave them with any equipment but that is not always an option when you are looking to retrograde and move out of a war zone. But that is our clear leverage we have with the Taliban, and again, our capacities are over the horizon capacities, which, by the way, killed two ISIS terrorists just last week and continue to be utilized by our men and women on the ground, remain in place and remain in place in the region. There are other parts of the world, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, where we don’t have a presence on the ground and we still prevent terrorist attacks or threats to U.S. citizens living in the United States or around the world from growing.”

Alexander asked bluntly, “Is the United States more or less safe today than we were before the Taliban took over?”

“Well, again, we are not going to do anything that’s going to allow terrorists to grow or prosper in Afghanistan or any terrorist organization,” Psaki boasted. “That continues to be the president’s commitment, and his order to his U.S. military over the past several days and the actions that CENTCOM have announced show that he is going to deliver on that.”

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