On the afternoon of 30 August, a White House aide brought a note into the Oval Office confirming that the last US military plane had left Afghan airspace, marking the moment America’s longest war had come to an end.
Joe Biden was with a team of advisers and on receiving the news he asked two of them, secretary of state Tony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, to accompany him to his private dining room to mark the moment with a call to the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin
Being held close by the president made Sullivan a lead protagonist in a historic moment, but it also put him at centre stage when the blame was hurled for the chaotic and humiliating nature of its final scenes, particularly as it was Sullivan who Joe Biden was sent out to explain the policy on the television talk shows.
The national security adviser is responsible for ensuring all legitimate points of view are aired in the situation room, and all scenarios are examined. But the Biden administration as a whole was taken by surprise by the catastrophic speed of the Afghan army’s collapse.
Eight months into his job, there have been calls for Sullivan’s resignation, and not just from Republicans. Brett Bruen, who was director of global engagement in the Obama White House, went as far as writing a commentary for USA Today calling for a shake-up in Biden’s national security team, starting with Sullivan.