President Joe Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, claimed the United States “safely and effectively” ended its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.

He did so during a speech Friday defending the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal ending in a Taliban takeover. Omitted in the remarks was any mention of the 13 U.S. service members killed in an explosion outside of the Kabul airport in August.

An ISIS-K suicide bomber detonated himself in a massive explosion on Aug. 26 near the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport amid the U.S.-led evacuation effort following the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15.

The 13 U.S. service members included 11 Marines, one Navy hospital corpsman, and one Army soldier. Numerous other U.S. troops were also injured in the blast, and more than 170 Afghans were killed.


Sullivan made the hourlong remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday, painting Biden’s foreign policy decisions in a positive light, including in Afghanistan, where the al Qaeda-allied and Haqqani network-dominated Taliban now rule a country facing economic collapse and possible starvation heading into the winter.

Sullivan said Afghanistan was one of the “hard choices" Biden has had to make during the first 11 months of his presidency.

“The scenes over the course of August in Afghanistan were harrowing. The human costs, heartbreaking — for Afghans, for people who served there," said Sullivan, adding that in Afghanistan “you have to make hard calls — none of them with clean outcomes.”

Sullivan continued, “We safely and effectively drew down our diplomatic presence. We lifted tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans to safety in a unique American example of capacity, commitment, and sheer logistics.”

“What you can do is plan for contingencies to flow thousands of troops to an airport to be able to rescue tens of thousands of people to get them out of harm’s way,” Sullivan said.

A bill successfully passed Congress posthumously awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to each of the 13 U.S. service members, noting the ISIS-K bombing was “the deadliest single day of the war for the United States in more than a decade.”

“The American service members went above and beyond the call of duty to protect citizens of the United States and our allies to ensure they are brought to safety in an extremely dangerous situation as the Taliban regained control over Afghanistan,” the legislation said. “The American service members exemplified extreme bravery and valor against armed enemy combatants.”

Biden signed it into law on Thursday.

The State Department said this week that it “directly assisted 479 American Citizens and 450 lawful permanent residents [in addition to their immediate families] to depart Afghanistan and relocate to the United States” since the end of August and claimed that it is “currently in touch with fewer than a dozen U.S. citizens who want to leave Afghanistan.” The Biden administration previously claimed it had only left roughly 100 U.S. citizens behind in Afghanistan.

The Biden administration says it is providing support for “up to 95,000 individuals relocated from Afghanistan” and that it has “welcomed more than 74,000 Afghans" to the U.S.

An estimated 62,000 Afghan interpreters and other Afghan allies who have applied for visas to the U.S. were left behind, according to a State Department official.

GOP Rep. Ken Calvert said in October that U.S. national security officials confirmed that the bomber responsible for the Aug. 26 bombing had previously been detained at a Bagram prison.

The alleged bomber was identified as Abdul Rehman al-Loghri, and he had been held at the Parwan prison at Bagram until the Taliban allowed the inmates there and at the Pul-e-Charkhi prison to go free in mid-August.

The Taliban, the Haqqani network, and al Qaeda are deeply intertwined in Afghanistan. A report from the United Nations in July said ISIS-K is led by Shahab al-Muhajir, who one member state says "may also have been previously a mid-level commander in the Haqqani Network."

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher argued that a top general's decision to turn down the Taliban’s offer to allow the U.S. to secure Kabul and to instead rely on the Taliban and the terrorist Haqqani network to provide security outside the airport was the “original sin” that led to the suicide bombing.


U.S. national security and intelligence officials have said al Qaeda or ISIS-K could potentially pose a threat to the U.S. from Afghanistan in as little as a year.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said this week that no one would be punished or fired for the deadly botched U.S. airstrike on Aug. 29 that killed 10 civilians, including Afghan aid worker Zemari Ahmadi and seven children, as opposed to an ISIS-K terrorist.