The president of the United States, Joe Biden, met Afghan leaders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah on Friday at the White House to demonstrate U.S. commitment to Afghanistan as U.S. troops withdraw.
“The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not over,” Biden said at an Oval Office meeting with Ghani and Abdullah.
“It will stay and you know, our troops will march, but our support for Afghanistan is not over,” Biden said.
The bulk of the 4,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan will be relocated in the next two weeks, and the United States plans to withdraw U.S. and coalition commanders before July 4, earlier than expected. according to The Associated Press.
In brief comments to the media at the top of the meeting, Biden praised Ghani and Abdullah for their “hard work” and their efforts to “achieve unity among Afghan leaders across the board.”
“Afghans will have to decide their future, what they want. And it won’t be because of our lack of help, “said Biden.
Ghani thanked American troops and their families for the sacrifices in Afghanistan over the past twenty years, but suggested that the war-ravaged country is now on the brink of civil war.
“It is a choice of values, the values of an inclusive or exclusive system,” Ghani said, adding that Afghan government forces pushed back Taliban fighters from the disputed areas.
“We are determined to have unity, coherence, a national sense of sacrifice and we will save nothing,” Ghani said.
“You will see that with determination, unity and collaboration, we will overcome all odds.”
Ghani and Abdullah had previously met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and CIA officials on Friday to discuss the transfer of U.S. forces and future contingency plans. .
“We are very excited and pleased that this partnership is taking place,” Ghani told the White House.
Amid increased security, Ghani was scheduled to make statements at a press conference in Washington, DC, following the White House meeting with Biden.
Biden had set a formal deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign forces from Afghanistan on September 11, the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion following al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington. , DC.
Some 650 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan to provide security for U.S. and international diplomats in Kabul after the main U.S. military contingent has completed its withdrawal, U.S. officials have told the AP.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview that the armed group has “Right to react” if the United States retains troops in Afghanistan after 9/11, when the withdrawal is to be completed.
“If they stay here, I think it’s a kind of continuation of employment. They have violated and we have every right to react, ”Shaheen said.
Several hundred additional U.S. soldiers will remain at Kabul airport, potentially until September, to help Turkish troops offer security in what U.S. officials described as a temporary move until there is an operation. more formal security led by Turkey.
Turkey has 500 troops in Afghanistan already as part of the NATO deployment and will be reassigned to protect the airport, Turkey’s defense minister said.
Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been discussing the airport security deal when the two met in Brussels on the sidelines of the NATO summit in early June.
Biden has the “fundamental belief” that “after 20 years, it’s time to take our troops home,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday before the meeting.
“We do it in an orderly and timely manner,” Psaki told White House reporters.
Fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban has escalated in recent weeks as the Taliban intensify attacks on Afghan security forces and police, increasing the prospects for renewed civil war.
Since May, fighters affiliated with the armed group have taken over strips of territory surrounding provincial capitals. Taliban advances have raised alarms at the UN and among senior US officials.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting in Paris on Friday with his French counterpart, said the Taliban attacks did not coincide with the framework for peace negotiations the US had agreed with the armed group.
“We are looking very closely at the situation on the ground in Afghanistan,” Blinken told reporters at a press conference in Paris.
“We are also looking very hard if the Taliban are serious about the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Blinken said.
“We remain committed to diplomacy, but the actions that the country is trying to take by force are, of course, totally incompatible with finding a peaceful resolution,” he said.
As the retreat approaches, the Biden administration is preparing to evacuate potentially thousands of Afghan translators, drivers and assistants working for the United States.
“We have identified a group … that has served us as interpreters and translators, as well as other risk categories, that have helped us. They will move to a place outside Afghanistan before we end our military withdrawal in September.” , Psaki said Friday.