Biden meets Afghan leaders as withdrawal nears end

11:34 AM | 26 Jun, 2021
Biden meets Afghan leaders as withdrawal nears end

WASHINGTON – US president Joe Biden met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, at the White House, where he assured full support despite the US pullout.

''Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want," said the US president, saying the "senseless violence has to stop".

The Afghan president said he respected Biden's decision and that the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan is entering a new phase.

"We are determined to have unity, coherence," he added.

Speaking with newsmen after the key meeting, Ghani said the United States' decision to withdraw troops was a sovereign one and it was Kabul's job to manage consequences.

He went on to say that Joe Biden had clearly articulated that the US embassy would continue to operate and security aid would continue and in some cases move on an accelerated schedule.

Speaking with an international news agency after the crucial meetup, former chief executive of a war-torn country said 

I think we shouldn’t shut the door unless it’s completely shut by the Taliban," adding that "We can’t say no to talks despite a lack of progress or in spite of what’s happening on the ground."

The Oval Office meeting could be as valuable to Ghani for its symbolism as for any new US help because it will be seen as affirming Biden's support for the beleaguered Afghan leader as he confronts Taliban gains, bombings, and assassinations, a surge in COVID-19 cases, and political infighting in Kabul.

Biden's embrace, however, comes only months after US officials were pressuring Ghani to step aside for a transitional government under a draft political accord that they floated in a failed gambit to break a stalemate in peace talks.

Meanwhile, Biden has asked Congress to approve $3.3 billion in security assistance for Afghanistan next year and is sending 3 million doses of vaccines there to help it battle COVID-19.

US officials have been clear that Biden will not halt the American pullout – likely to be completed in the coming weeks -and he is unlikely to approve any US military support to Kabul to halt the Taliban's advances beyond advice, intelligence, and aircraft maintenance.

The crisis has fueled grave concerns that the Taliban could regain power - two decades after the US-led invasion ended their rule – allowing a resurgence of al Qaeda. 

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