Afghan leaders to meet with Biden at the White House | Abdullah Abdullah News

Afghan leaders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday for a high-stakes discussion that could shape the future of Afghanistan as the United States withdraws its forces almost 20 years after the ‘invasion.

President Biden should offer assurance of American support for the Afghan government in Kabul and is likely to pressure Ghani and Abdullah to unite their rival political factions in the face of growing Taliban onslaught, analysts say.

Ghani and Abdullah, meanwhile, are expected to call on Biden for specific and concrete pledges of financial and diplomatic support, including continued technical assistance for besieged Afghan military forces.

“The security situation is alarming and deteriorating,” said Scott Worden, director of the Afghanistan program at the US Institute of Peace, who has just returned from a trip to the Asian country.

Fighting between Afghan government forces and the armed group has escalated as the Taliban stepped up their military campaign, according to the Reuters news service and other reports. Since May, fighters have taken control of areas surrounding provincial capitals, giving the Taliban control of large swathes of territory, the Security Council warned on June 22 a senior UN official.

A “possible slide into dire scenarios is undeniable,” said Deborah Lyons, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

Biden said Thursday he plans to discuss with President Ghani and Abdullah, head of the reconciliation council, plans for airlifting the thousands of Afghans who have supported Americans out of the country.

“Those who helped us will not be left behind,” Biden said. “They will be welcome here like all those who risked their lives to help us. “

Members of US Congress urge Biden administration to expedite visa approvals for Afghans who helped American forces leave the country and there has been talks about evacuating large number of Afghans to the American island of Guam.

Left to right, Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan leader of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in Washington, DC on June 24 [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

The United States says it is more than halfway away from the withdrawal of equipment and troops. The withdrawal of forces, carried out in conjunction with NATO troops, could be completed as early as July, before Biden’s deadline of September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the US invasion.

Indeed, the speed of the American withdrawal surprised political and civil society leaders in Afghanistan and dealt a psychological blow to Afghan security forces and lowered public hopes and expectations, according to Worden.

Earlier this week, the The Taliban have captured a key border post on Afghanistan’s northern border with Tajikistan in the town of Shir Khan Bandar, seizing ammunition and armored vehicles from government forces and sending customs officials to flee to safety, according to Reuters.

“The Taliban’s ability to take control of districts has surprised many Afghans, and I think the region,” Worden told Al Jazeera.

The Taliban’s successes on the battlefield emboldened 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 signaled President Biden’s decision to withdraw US and NATO forces and the timetable for the departure of all US troops by September is firm.

But the Taliban offensive could lead to revisions to US plans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told media on June 21. “This is a dynamic situation” and “we are aware that this timeline could fluctuate and change as conditions change,” Kirby said.

Asked about Afghanistan at a June 23 press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted the Pentagon was pursuing an orderly withdrawal of US troops and stressed that states -United had not seen Taliban attacks against US forces.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, America’s top military officer, assured Congress that the Afghan army will be able to resist a challenge Taliban even in the absence of US forces. But they also said al Qaeda could regain its strength to attack the United States within two years – the reason it invaded in 2001.

But, after the Taliban swept through northern Afghanistan last week, US intelligence agencies concluded the Afghan government could collapse within six months of the end of the US withdrawal, according to a Wall newspaper article. Street Journal citing officials with knowledge of the new assessment. .

U.S. military planners have assessed their ability to conduct air attacks in Afghanistan from remote bases elsewhere if necessary to protect U.S. interests and those of its allies once its troops have left, the commander said earlier. from Centcom, U.S. Marine General Frank McKenzie to Voice of America. this month.

Biden’s withdrawal schedule “has been much more rushed than it should be” and Ghani is likely hoping to convince the administration to adjust its approach, said Lisa Curtis, director of the Indo-Pacific program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. .

The Biden administration should allow contractors to stay in Afghanistan, to continue providing support to the Afghan Air Force which depends on U.S. technical assistance, Curtis said.

Biden needs to “show that the United States isn’t just turning around and abandoning the country because right now it’s the narrative that’s being built,” Curtis told Al Jazeera.

But under a February 2020 deal signed between the United States and the Taliban negotiated under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump that enforces the withdrawal, the estimated 16,000 American contractors in Afghanistan must leave when the troops do.

The Afghan government was not part of these negotiations, and the peace talks between it and the Taliban that were supposed to be the next step have stalled.

Longer term, the Biden administration is relying on regional powers such as Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, China and Iran to help avert an epidemic great civil war in Afghanistan and support a peace process, analysts said.

Biden discussed the US withdrawal and the security situation in Kabul with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he met them separately in Geneva and Brussels last week.

At the White House, Biden will reassure Ghani and Abdullah that the United States will continue to support the Afghan government financially and diplomatically after the departure of American forces, said Jason Campbell, policy researcher at the RAND Corporation.

Biden is likely to lecture Ghani and Abdullah “behind closed doors” about the tough political compromises between Afghans that will be needed to present a united front against the Taliban, Campbell told Al Jazeera.

“We know from previous experiences that Biden has no problem uttering this kind of language about his expectations.”

Ghani and Abdullah represent rival parties. The pair contested the results of the 2019 presidential elections – eventually came to an agreement for Ghani to retain the presidency and Abdullah to take the title of head of the reconciliation council. The two had previously ruled in a government of national unity after fighting for months in 2016 over who won the presidential election.

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