Biden Tells Afghanistan’s Ghani U.S. Will ‘Stick With You’
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said Friday the U.S. is committed to its partnership with Afghanistan, even as American and other foreign troops withdraw from the country despite a surge of violence.
“The senseless violence -- it has to stop,” Biden told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the start of a meeting in the Oval Office. “It’s going to be very difficult but we’re going to stick with you.”
The visit, and Biden’s pledge of support, are intended to show the U.S. continues to back the Afghan leader as he struggles to grapple with Taliban gains and rising coronavirus rates. Abdullah Abdullah, a former Ghani rival who heads the government-appointed High Council for National Reconciliation, also attended the meeting.
The U.S. plans to keep roughly 650 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats, the Associated Press reported, citing U.S. officials. Security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is a key requirement for keeping diplomats in the country, the administration has said.
Most of the remaining American forces are scheduled to depart in the next two weeks. The Pentagon expects the withdrawal to be completed by Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline, spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.
Biden has asked Congress to approve $3.3 billion in military assistance for Afghanistan and has already committed to provide $266 million in new humanitarian aid to the country. The U.S. also plans to send 3 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to Afghanistan as soon as next week.
Biden said the “partnership” with the U.S. would be “sustained.” “Our troops may be leaving but support for Afghanistan is not ending,” he said.
Ghani said he’s encouraged. “We’re entering into a new chapter of our relationship where the partnership with the United States will not be military but comprehensive regarding our mutual interest,” he said.
At a news conference at the Afghan Embassy after meeting Biden, Ghani paid tribute to American personnel who had died in Afghanistan over the past two decades. He likened the situation in his country to the position of the U.S. federal government in 1861, when it was determined to ensure the nation’s unity despite the prospect of civil war.
“I can assure you that we are united,” Ghani said. “The support for the republic is intense, immense and across the board.”
“The Taliban and their backers should know that force is not the way to compel an Afghan into submission,” he said, referring to the insurgent group ousted from power by the U.S. in late 2001. “We still call on them to have a cease-fire and to engage in a political process because a political settlement is the ultimate mechanism of ending the war. As Lincoln said, the best way of treating an enemy is to turn him into a friend.”
The Biden administration said this week that before the military withdrawal is complete, it plans to relocate an unspecified number of Afghans who assisted the U.S. military’s invasion and occupation of the country.
The Afghans will be moved to a third country while they wait for the U.S. to approve visas for them and their families, a senior administration official said. They are people who are easily identifiable as U.S. partners because they worked on the front lines with American troops.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that 18,000 Afghans are in the process of obtaining Special Immigrant Visas, while advocates say thousands more should also be evacuated, including former U.S. military contractors and Afghans who work for human-rights groups.
The Taliban has said that Afghans who assisted the U.S. have nothing to fear after the troop withdrawal and should remain in the country.
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