Afghan leader to meet Biden as US exit looms

June 25, 2021: Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani faces the cold reality of the end of US military presence in Afghanistan Friday when he meets with President Joe Biden in the White House.

With his government under increasing threat from an emboldened Taliban insurgency, Ghani will be hoping for a significant commitment of US aid for his government, which will be without the on-the-ground support of US forces for the first time in nearly two decades.

But its longest war destroys any hope of delaying the US withdrawal. Biden has ordered the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks this year, saying he believes nothing more can be achieved. The final evacuation, announced in April, has progressed rapidly, with some estimating that most of the 2,500 US troops and 16,000 civilian contractors could be completed in July.

On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean Pierre said, “This visit is for the first time in our ongoing commitment and support for the Afghan people and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.” We will focus on the key challenges facing the country. ”

Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who are at odds with the Taliban over a power-sharing deal, arrived in Washington on Thursday as the insurgents continue to gain ground in the country, both physically and in terms of propaganda.

The rapid withdrawal of the United States has left the country in a state of uncertainty, with many worried about the return to power of extremists who ruled the country from 1996-2001 with a brutal version of Islam. The Wall Street Journal reports that a new US intelligence report estimates that Kabul could possibly be captured within six months – although other experts say the situation could be reduced in the short term. Still, the situation is being compared to the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973. Two years later, the South Vietnamese government, backed by Washington, passed into the hands of the North Vietnamese military.

Still seemingly hoping to ease the US withdrawal, Ghani and Abdullah met with members of Congress on Thursday, many of whom criticized Biden’s decision to leave – even though their advance was in fact theirs. It started last year under his predecessor, Donald Trump. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell urged Biden to delay the withdrawal after talks with Afghan leaders. “President Biden’s decision to withdraw US forces has left our Afghan partners alone to deal with the dangers that their own top advisers acknowledge are getting worse and worse,” McConnell said.

On Friday, Ghani and Abdullah will meet with Biden at the White House and separately with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. A Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said: “One of the things we’re going to talk to President Ghani about tomorrow is the commitment of the United States to its own government.” Biden is expected to endorse billions of dollars in US aid to the country, and possibly make arrangements for US civilian contractors.

According to Jean-Pierre, the United States will supply 3 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson Corona virus vaccine to Afghanistan next week.

Andrew Watkins, an Afghanistan expert with the International Crisis Group, said Ghani wanted to show that he had US support as the country’s leader. “Ghani does not have much domestic legitimacy. His legal status may be greater than any other source or any element of international recognition and support,” Watkins said. Meanwhile, the US side may put pressure on Ghani and Abdullah to strike a power-sharing deal with the Taliban, rather than soon. “We believe that the best political solution to the conflict is compromise,” Jean-Pierre told reporters.

No press conference was planned, possibly indicating how precarious the situation is for both sides.

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