Kabul: US President Joe Biden is looking forward to a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani during which the two leaders will discuss ways to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to America, the White House has said.
Biden will meet Ghani at the White House on Friday for the first face-to-face interaction ahead of the withdrawal of the remaining US and NATO forces from the war-torn country by September 11. “The president looks forward to welcoming him to the White House for a meeting on Friday. I expect their focus of their conversation will be to continue to discuss how we can work together to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the US homeland,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.
Their conversation will also be about how they can work together to continue to implement humanitarian assistance, other assistance that the United States remains committed to, even as the US works to draw down its troops from Afghanistan. At the Pentagon, the Defense Department said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the military leadership “are constantly looking at the pace we’re going at, and the capabilities we have, and the capabilities that we’re going to need throughout to complete the withdrawal.
The high-level meeting between Biden and Ghani will take place as the Taliban insurgents have in recent weeks captured dozens of new districts in Afghanistan and both sides are said to have suffered heavy casualties. The escalation in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban militants have dealt fresh blows to the US-brokered peace negotiations between Kabul and the insurgents.
The US military exit from Afghanistan before September 11 stems from the February 2020 agreement Washington signed with the Taliban in return for counterterrorism guarantees and pledges the group would negotiate a political settlement to the war with the Afghan government. Biden has made it clear that a continued military strategy was no longer sustainable in Afghanistan.
Even the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah will join Ghani and meet Biden. Meanwhile, Pakistan hoped that the US will continue its engagement and efforts for the success of the Afghan peace process. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said, “I wish to reiterate our hope that the US will continue its engagement and efforts for the success of the Afghan Peace Process,” he said, adding that peace in Afghanistan remains a shared objective.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in his media talk, also referred to the Afghan president’s visit to the US without naming Ghani, and urged the Afghan leadership to have trust in Pakistan and its institution by coming out of the past mantra of the blame game.
“This time around, we have to be partners in peace…I’m saying this with sincerity, if you [Ashraf Ghani] are going to the US and repeat the same old manta in which we have been entangled since long, it would neither be beneficial for Afghanistan nor for the region,” Qureshi said, in a reference to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to the US.
Qureshi had also said that the Afghan peace process has entered into a critical phase and peace in the neighboring country is the priority of many countries. He further termed the meeting with Abdullah as positive and said that it helped him in understanding the internal situation of the neighboring country.
Meanwhile, US leaders continually assess the progress of the retrograde from Afghanistan and the state of operations in the country and adjust accordingly, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said on Monday. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has said the retrograde from Afghanistan is on pace. But, it is a dynamic situation in the nation.
The Taliban have attacked Afghan government bases and units. Kirby said that Austin and military leaders in the Pentagon, at US Central Command and in Afghanistan, “are constantly looking at the pace we’re going at, and the capabilities we have, and the capabilities that we’re going to need throughout to complete the withdrawal,” Kirby said. “As we said, from the very beginning; while there is a schedule, we are mindful that that schedule could fluctuate and change, as conditions change.”
Kirby said there are only two aspects of the Afghanistan retrograde that will not change: The first is the US military will withdraw all US forces from the country, and the second is the withdrawal will be finished by the September deadline set by President Joe Biden.
Other aspects of the Afghan situation are still being studied, Kirby said. Commanders at many levels are wrestling with what over-the-horizon counterinsurgency and over-the-horizon logistics will look like. The US military can already provide the over-the-horizon support that the Afghan government will need, Kirby said, those capabilities already exist. Leaders are looking for better ways to perform the missions.
Austin has extended the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower in the region. He has deployed a bomber task force to the area. Planners continue to look at ways to provide contractual support to Afghan forces once the retrograde is completed. “There’s a range of options that we’re looking at for how to continue to provide contractual support, specifically the Afghan Air Forces,” Kirby said. “We’re very actively working our way through that right now. We’re looking at a range of options,” he added.
Meanwhile, a technical delegation from the US Department of Defense is expected to arrive in Turkey on Thursday to discuss activities for keeping the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan operational, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said.
The delegation, which will meet with the Turkish Defense Ministry officials, is expected to discuss the issue in full detail. Turkey has been running the military and logistic operations of the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan for six years as part of the NATO Resolute Support Mission.