President Biden will meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House Friday afternoon to discuss ways to ensure a secure future for a country increasingly threatened by violent insurgency amid the withdrawal of American and international military troops.
Mr Biden will use the meeting, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., to reassure the Afghan leadership that the government will continue to provide the country with security, diplomatic and humanitarian aid even if the Taliban advance on Afghan government troops and send the country further into crisis .
Mr Biden’s decision to withdraw American troops by September 11th is one of the most momentous of his presidency to date, a deeply personal calculation, “gut feeling,” as one official put it. And despite the deteriorating security situation, dire intelligence reports, and the likelihood that the White House will see terrible images of human suffering and loss and possible civil war in the coming weeks and months, Mr Biden’s message remains clear, these officials say: That US military leaves.
“It’s not going to be a happy conversation,” said Michael Kugelman, assistant director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington. “Although Kabul has accepted the fact that US forces are withdrawing, it is hard to swallow as the withdrawal is being played against an unprecedented Taliban offensive.”
At the White House meeting, Mr. Biden will pledge financial assistance to Mr. Ghani, including a humanitarian aid package of $ 266 million and $ 3.3 billion in security assistance. The White House will also send three million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and oxygen supplies to Afghanistan, where efforts to help those suffering from a third wave of the coronavirus have been hampered by fighting in the area.
A small security force from the embassy will also remain in Afghanistan.
Mr Biden is expected to urge both Mr Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to forge peace with their country’s leaders in order to repel the advancing Taliban.
“One of the important messages that we will emphasize is the need for leaders to form a united front as they face security and other challenges,” Karine Jean Pierre, White House deputy press secretary, said on Thursday.
Ghani is expected to use the meeting to show that even without a US military presence and despite growing talk of a decentralized Afghan government and a renewed rise of regional militias, he still has financial support from the West.
“That gives them some space and authority over anyone who is arguing and saying, ‘Can the central government protect me or do I have to break completely?” Jason Dempsey, an extraordinary senior fellow at the Center for New American Security, said. Ghani is also expected to meet Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday.
The meeting will also take place a day after Mr Biden announced that his administration would begin relocating Afghan interpreters, drivers, and others under threat of retaliation by working with American forces. The Biden administration was under increasing pressure to aid Afghan allies who faced bureaucratic delays in obtaining special immigrant visas to offer them refuge in the United States.
Officials said they would soon start moving tens of thousands of Afghans outside the country, possibly to Guam or some other location with close ties to the United States.
Mr Biden told reporters Thursday that he would discuss exactly where the Afghans should be taken while their visas are being processed.
“You are welcome here, as are everyone else who risked their lives to help us,” said Biden.
The reality on the ground in Afghanistan is becoming bleak.
This week the Taliban invaded three provincial capitals and clashed with security forces. The Taliban have taken control of more than 50 counties in Afghanistan through local mediation, military crimes and government withdrawal, according to the New York Times, since May 1, when US forces officially began their withdrawal.
Mr Austin told a Senate grants committee last week that there was a “medium” probability that al-Qaeda or Islamic State could reappear in Afghanistan in the next two years, raising the prospect of a resurgence of terrorist groups in the region elevated.