Biden to meet Afghan President Ghani amid troop withdrawal

The US President will discuss the withdrawal with the Afghan President as the Taliban gains power in Afghanistan. Biden is expected to pledge economic and humanitarian aid.

President Joe Biden will meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani later this week, the White House announced on Sunday, amid a surge in violence ahead of a planned full withdrawal of international troops.

Afghan forces and the Taliban have clashed repeatedly across the country as US and other foreign troops prepare to pull out completely on 11 September this year.

The withdrawal officially began last month.

Biden’s meeting with Ghani on Friday will be the former senator’s first face-to-face meeting since taking office in January.

The US leader is expect to pledge diplomatic, economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to prevent the country from becoming a haven for militants.

However, the Taliban have captured at least 30 districts across the country since the United States announced it was ending its presence there after nearly 20 years of war.

What else does Biden plan to do?

Fearing possible Taliban retaliation against them and their families, the United States is also offering safe haven to Afghans who have worked for the NATO-led coalition for the past 20 years.

Earlier this month, 20 members of Congress urged President Joe Biden in an open letter to “immediately” evacuate the more than 18,000 interpreters and their families who have applied for visas to the United States.

Officials from both parties wrote that each application “takes more than 800 days on average, and we plan to withdraw them in less than 100 days.”

Homeland Security adviser Jack Sullivan said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday that the issue was a “top priority” for the White House and that visa applications would be expedited.

“We’re processing these applications and getting people out at a record pace. We’re working with Congress right now,” he said, to streamline some of the requirements that slow down the process.

For his part, Sullivan played down the idea that President Biden has changed his mind about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

What is the Taliban’s reaction?

The Taliban have dismissed as “useless” the visit of Ghani, who will travel with Abdullah, chairperson of the High Commissioner for National Reconciliation in Afghanistan.

“They will talk to US officials to impose their power and personal interests,” Taliban representative Zabihullah Mujahid said.

“This is not good for Afghanistan,” he added.

The Afghan presidency had no immediate comment, but senior officials told Reuters they would seek security guarantees from the United States.

What about peace talks?

Peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar remain stalled.

The talks began last September, but the meetings in Doha have made little progress in the past two and a half weeks.

The Taliban said on Sunday they were ready for peace talks but insisted they want a “true Islamic system” in Afghanistan and are taking what they see as the traditional route on issues such as women’s rights.

International negotiators are concerned that the militant group has not submitted written proposals, and Tomas Nilsson, the EU’s acting special representative for Afghanistan, warned last week that time was running out.

In May, US intelligence analysts said that if the Taliban regained state power, progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan would be “set way back”.

Before they were overthrown by a US-led coalition in 2001, they imposed a strict Islamic form of government that banned girls from attending school.

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