President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, met with US President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday, a key meeting that happens amidst fragile security situation in the country as the international troops are leaving.
In this meeting, Biden promised the Afghan leaders a “sustained” partnership even as he moves to accelerate winding down the US’s longest war in Afghanistan.
President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah also met at the Pentagon with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
While Biden vowed that the US was committed to assisting Afghanistan, he also insisted that it was time for the American military to step back, according to The Associated Press report.
“Afghans are going to have to decide their future,” Biden said in brief remarks at the start of his meeting with the Afghan leaders. He did not elaborate more about a ’’sustained” partnership with Afghanistan.
Biden emphasized enduring United States support for the Afghan people, including Afghan women, girls, and minorities, through civilian, development, and humanitarian aid, as well as the continued provision of security assistance to support Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
He expressed his concern about the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan, and noted additional emergency US assistance, including three million doses of vaccines, to help the Afghan government respond to the pandemic, according to a White House statement.
President Biden, President Ghani, and Chairman Abdullah concurred on the need for unity among Afghan leaders in support of peace and stability, and President Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to fully support intra-Afghan negotiations, the statement said.
The US and Afghan leaders firmly agreed that although US troops are leaving Afghanistan, the strong bilateral partnership will continue, the statement added.
Abdullah Abdullah, head of the reconciliation council, said that US President Joe Biden in his meeting with the Afghan delegation stressed on Afghan unity, continued support and an end to "senseless violence" in Afghanistan.
Abdullah said that Biden reassured them that American assistance will not end as the US prepares to end its military presence in Afghanistan.
"We expressed our appreciation for US sacrifices and generous assistance over the years, discussed key issues and stressed on a negotiated political settlement to end the war, enhance stability and allow the Afghan people to determine their own future," Abdullah said.
Ahead of his meeting with Biden, President Ghani met with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“As we enter a new phase of that relationship, we look forward to hearing from you how we can do so with humanitarian assistance,” Pelosi said in a press briefing with Ghani.
“We look forward to having a conversation about how we strengthen our relationship through humanitarian assistance,” Pelosi said. “Our friendship is one that is deep and personal, and one that we value. Again, this visit that you are making to the Capitol is an important one for both of our countries, certainly for us.”
Ghani said that the decision of President Biden has been a strategic decision and that “we respect it.”
“It is dealing with a new chapter of our friendship; our strategic relationship and our people to people relationship and government to government relationship that we have focused on,” Ghani said.
Addressing a news conference after the Oval Office meeting, Ghani said that the talks with Biden were productive.
He pointed to an increase in Afghans signing up for the military as a sign of hope. But he also acknowledged the difficulty that lies ahead. He said that the decision by President Biden is not the abandonment of Afghanistan, but it is a new chapter in Kabul-Washington ties.
“There have been reverses, we acknowledge it — but the key now is stabilization,” he added.
In a meeting with Afghan leaders, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States remains committed to continuing to provide critical security assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
"I am confident that as Resolute Support begins to wind down, we will make the transition to a new relationship with Afghanistan and the Afghan forces, one that continues to help you meet your responsibilities to your citizens, and we will remain partners with the Afghan government and the Afghan military, and we will continue to work toward our common goal in -- in new and different ways," he said.