Biden to Meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

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Politics|Biden will meet President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan at the White House.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/25/us/politics/biden-afghan-ghani.html

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan met with Senators Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, and Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, on Thursday.
Credit...Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times
  • June 25, 2021, 9:12 a.m. ET

President Biden will meet with the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, on Friday afternoon at the White House to discuss ways to ensure a safe future for a country increasingly under threat by a violent insurgency amid the withdrawal of American and international military troops.

Mr. Biden will use the meeting, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., to assure the Afghan leadership that the administration will continue to support the country with security assistance, as well as diplomatic and humanitarian aid, even as the Taliban advances on Afghan government forces and sends the country further into a crisis.

Mr. Biden’s decison to pull out American troops by Sept. 11 is one of the most consequential of his presidency so far, a deeply personal calculation, “from the gut,” as one official put it. And despite the worsening security situation, gloomy intelligence reports, and the likelihood the White House will face 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: The U.S. military is leaving.

“It won’t be a happy conversation,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program for the Wilson Center, a think-tank in Washington. “While Kabul has accepted the fact that U.S. forces are leaving, it’s tough to swallow given that the withdrawal is playing out against an unprecedented Taliban offensive.”

In the meeting at the White House, Mr. Biden will assure Mr. Ghani with financial support, including a $266 million humanitarian assistance package 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 embassy security force will also stay behind in Afghanistan.

Mr. Biden is expected to press Mr. Ghani, as well as Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to forge peace with their country’s leaders to stave off the advancing Taliban.

“One of the important messages we will be stressing is the need for the leaders to be a united front as they address security and other challenges,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said on Thursday.

Mr. Ghani is expected to use the meeting to show that he still has financial backing from the West even without a U.S. military presence, and despite the growing talk of a decentralized Afghan government and a renewed rise of regional militias.

“It buys them a little bit of space and authority with everybody now who is jockeying and saying, ‘Can the central government protect me or do I need to completely break?” Jason Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for New American Security said. Mr. Ghani is also expected to meet Lloyd Austin, the secretary of defense, on Friday.

The meeting will also come a day after Mr. Biden said his administration would begin relocating Afghan interpreters, drivers and others under threat of retaliation from working with American forces. The Biden administration had been under increasing pressure to help the Afghan allies who have faced bureaucratic delays for special immigrant visas meant to provide them sanctuary in the United States.

Officials have said they would soon begin to move the tens of thousands of Afghans outside of the country, potentially to Guam or somewhere else with close ties to the United States.

Mr. Biden told reporters on Thursday that he would be discussing where exactly to move the Afghans while their visas are processed.

“They’re welcome here, just like anyone else who risked their lives to help us,” Mr. Biden said.

The reality on the ground in Afghanistan is turning dire.

This week, the Taliban pushed into three provincial capitals, clashing with security forces. The Taliban have taken control of more than 50 districts in Afghanistan through local mediation, military offenses and government retreats since May 1, when U.S. forces officially began their withdrawal, according to data collected by The New York Times.

Mr. Austin told a Senate Appropriations Committee last week that there was a “medium” likelihood Al Qaeda or the Islamic State could resurface in Afghanistan in the next two years, raising the prospect of a resurgence of terrorist groups in the region.

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