US President Joe Biden promised Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani strong support during a White House meeting but made clear he was not planning to slow the US troop withdrawal. US President Joe Biden meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House, in Washington, US, June 25, 2021 (Reuters) US President Joe Biden has met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his former political foe, Abdullah Abdullah at the White House where he called on Afghans to decide the future of their country as the last US troops pack up after 20 years of war and government forces struggle to repel Taliban advances.
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Biden, seated beside Ghani and Abdullah in the Oval Office on Friday, called them “two old friends” and said US support for Afghanistan was not ending but would be sustained despite the US pullout.
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“Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want,” said Biden, saying the “senseless violence has to stop.”
READ MORE: US plans to keep about 650 troops in Afghanistan after withdrawal
President Biden meets with “two old friends,” Afghanistan President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah Abdullah, pledges US support not ending despite troop pullout pic.twitter.com/Vuf6773D7K
— Steve Holland (@steveholland1) June 25, 2021 US support for Ghani
Ghani said Afghan security forces had retaken six districts on Friday. He said he respected Biden's decision and that the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan is entering a new phase.
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“We are determined to have unity, coherence,” he said.
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Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Ghani said the United States' decision to withdraw troops was a sovereign one and it was Kabul's job to “manage consequences.”
He added that 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
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
“At a time when morale is incredibly shaky and things are going downhill, anything one can do to help shore up morale and shore up the government is worth doing,” said Ronald Neumann, a former US ambassador to Kabul. “Inviting Ghani here is a pretty strong sign that we're backing him.”
READ MORE: Afghan govt gathers local militias to halt advancing Taliban
دیدار رئیس جمهور محمد اشرف غني و هیات همراه اش با جوبایدن رئیس جمهور ایالات متحدۀ امریکا
د امریکا متحدو ایالتونو جمهوررئیس جوبایډن سره د جمهوررئیس غني او مل پلاوي کتنه
Meeting of President Ashraf Ghani and his accompanying delegation with President Biden #GhaniUSAVisit pic.twitter.com/yId4kO7cxR
— ارگ (@ARG_AFG) June 25, 2021 Pressure for transitional government
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
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
Earlier, the Afghan leaders met for a second day on Capitol Hill, where Biden's withdrawal decision met objections from many members of both parties
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, welcoming Ghani to a bipartisan leadership meeting, said she looked forward to hearing about what more can be done with US humanitarian aid, especially for women and girls
Many lawmakers and experts have expressed deep concerns that the Taliban – if returned to power – will reverse progress made on the rights of women and girls, who were harshly repressed and barred from education and work during the insurgents' 1996-2001 rule
READ MORE: Afghan officials: Taliban waging war against own people, razing districts
Had substantive talks with @SecDef & team. We agree that a military option is not sustainable & will harm our quest for peace. Thanking the US, we were assured of support for ANDSF as withdrawal plans move forward. We condemned the rise in violence & agreed to focus on stability. pic.twitter.com/BQQpROxYFa
— Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (@DrabdullahCE) June 25, 2021 The Ghani–Abdullah visit comes with the peace process stalled and violence raging as Afghan security forces fight to stem a Taliban spring offensive that threatens several provincial capitals and has triggered mobilisations of ethnic militias to reinforce government troops
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking during a visit on Friday to Paris, said Washington is “looking very hard” at whether the Taliban are “serious about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”
The crisis has fuelled grave concerns that the Taliban could regain power – two decades after the US-led invasion ended their rule – allowing a resurgence of al Qaeda.
US and UN officials say the militants maintain close links with the Taliban
READ MORE: Taliban seizes Afghanistan's Tajikistan border crossing in northern assault