Afghan leaders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden in the White House on Friday for a high-profile discussion that could shape Afghanistan’s future as the U.S. withdraws forces almost 20 years after the invasion.
President Biden is expected to deliver guarantees of American support for the Afghan government in Kabul and is likely to pressure Ghani and Abdullah to unify their rival political factions in the face of rising Taliban attacks, analysts say.
Meanwhile, Ghani and Abdullah are expected to appeal to Biden for specific and concrete commitments of financial and diplomatic support, including continued technical assistance to the opposing Afghan military forces.
“The security situation is alarming and deteriorating,” said Scott Worden, director of the Afghanistan program at the U.S. Peace Institute, who recently returned from a trip to the Asian country.
Fighting between Afghan government forces and the armed group has accelerated as the Taliban intensify their military campaign, according to the Reuters news service and other reports. Since May, fighters have taken the areas surrounding the provincial capitals, giving the Taliban control of large swathes of territory, a senior UN official on the Security Council warned on June 22.
It is undeniable that “a slide into dire situations is possible,” said Deborah Lyons, head of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan.
Biden said Thursday that he planned to discuss with President Ghani and Abdullah, head of the reconciliation council, plans for the airlift of thousands of Afghans who supported Americans abroad.
“Those who helped us will not be left behind,” Biden said. “They will be welcome here like anyone else who risked their lives to help us.”
Members of the U.S. Congress are pressuring the Biden administration to speed up visa approvals Afghans who helped American forces are leaving the country and there have been speaks of evacuation large number of Afghans on the island of Guam in the United States.
The United States says it is more than half of the withdrawal of equipment and troops. The withdrawal of forces, made in conjunction with NATO troops, could be completed as early as July, before the September 11 Biden deadline, the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. invasion.
In fact, the speed of the Withdrawal from the US it took political and civil society leaders by surprise in Afghanistan and dealt a psychological blow to Afghan security forces and pushed back the hopes and expectations of the public, according to Worden.
Earlier this week, the The Taliban captured a key border crossing on Afghanistan’s northern border with Tajikistan in the city of Shir Khan Bandar, hijacking ammunition and armored vehicles from government forces and sending customs workers fleeing for security, according to Reuters.
“The Taliban’s ability to take over the districts has surprised many Afghans, and I think the region,” Worden told Al Jazeera.
Taliban successes on the battlefield have enlivened the group’s military wing, reducing incentives to engage in peace talks. “It changes the strategic calculation in terms of talks and prospects for peace,” Worden said.
White House and Pentagon officials have noted President Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. and NATO forces and the timetable for the departure of all U.S. troops in September is firm.
But the Taliban offensive could spark revisions to U.S. plans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the media on June 21. “It’s a dynamic situation” and “we are aware that this schedule could fluctuate and change as conditions change,” Kirby said.
Asked about Afghanistan at a briefing on June 23, White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted the Pentagon continues with the orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and stressed that the U.S. has not seen Taliban attacks on US forces.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, the top U.S. military officer, have assured Congress that the Afghan military will be able to take on a challenge of the Taliban even in the absence of American forces. But they also said al-Qaeda could regain strength to attack the United States within two years, which is why it invaded in 2001.
But after the Taliban swept through northern Afghanistan last week, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the Afghan government could collapse within six months of the end of the US withdrawal. United, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal citing officials with knowledge of the new assessment. .
U.S. military planners have been assessing their ability to carry out airstrikes on Afghanistan from distant bases, should it be necessary to protect U.S. interests and their allies once their troops have left, Centcom Navy Commander Frank McKenzie told Voice of America earlier this month on Voice of America.
Biden’s withdrawal schedule “has been much more hasty than it needs” and Ghani is likely to hope to convince the administration to adjust its approach, said Lisa Curtis, director of the Center’s Indo-Pacific Center for New Northern Security. American in Washington. .
The Biden administration should allow contractors to stay in Afghanistan and continue to support the Afghan air force that relies on U.S. technical assistance, Curtis said.
Biden needs to “prove that the United States doesn’t just turn tail and leave the country because right now it’s the narrative that’s being built,” Curtis told Al Jazeera.
But under an agreement signed between the U.S. and the Taliban in February 2020 that negotiated with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, forcing the withdrawal, the estimated 16,000 U.S. contractors in Afghanistan will have to leave when the troops do.
The Afghan government was not part of these negotiations and peace talks between it and the Taliban that were supposed to be the next step have stalled.
In the longer term, the Biden administration relies on regional powers, including Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, China and Iran, to help prevent a great civil war in Afghanistan and support a peace process, analysts say.
Biden discussed the U.S. withdrawal and the security situation in Kabul with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he met separately in Geneva and Brussels last week.
At the White House, Biden will provide “reassurance” to Ghani and Abdullah that the United States will continue to provide financial and diplomatic support to the Afghan government after U.S. forces leave, said Jason Campbell, a RAND Corporation policy researcher. .
Biden is likely to give lectures to Ghani and Abdullah bluntly “behind closed doors” on making the tough political commitments between Afghans that will be needed to present a united front against the Taliban, Campbell told Al Jazeera.
“We know that from previous experiences, Biden has no problem issuing that kind of language about his expectations.”
Ghani and Abdullah represent rival parties. The two men disputed the results of the 2019 presidential election: they finally reached an agreement for Ghani to hold the presidency and Abdullah to take the title of head of the reconciliation council. The two had previously ruled in a national unity government after fighting for months in 2016 over who won the presidential election.