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Biden hosts Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani at White House amid U.S. withdrawal

Afghani President Ashraf Ghani will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday afternoon. File Photo by Jawad Jalali/EPA-EFE
Afghani President Ashraf Ghani will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday afternoon. File Photo by Jawad Jalali/EPA-EFE

June 25 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden welcomed Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to the White House on Friday, promising to sustain the partnership between the two nations as U.S. troops withdraw from the Middle Eastern country.

Ghani was joined at the meeting by Abdullah Abdullah, his chief negotiator in slow-moving power-sharing and peace talks with the Taliban.

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Biden welcomed the "two old friends" to the White House.

"The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending," Biden said. "It's going to be sustained. And you know our troops may be leaving but our support for Afghanistan is not ending in terms of support and maintenance of helping maintain their military as well as economic and political support.

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"The senseless violence has to stop but it's going to be very difficult. But we're going to stick with you and we're going to do our best to see to it you have the tools you need."

Ghani paid tribute to the nearly 2,500 U.S. troops who died in the war in Afghanistan, as well as more than 1 million veterans who served there.

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"The United States has not spared any effort in blood or treasure during these years. As a grateful nation I want to acknowledge that and ask you, thank the gold star families," he said.

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Ghani's visit comes several weeks after Biden announced that all U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11. The Pentagon said earlier this month that the withdrawal is at least 30% complete.

"The United States is committed to supporting the Afghan people by providing diplomatic, economic and humanitarian assistance to support the Afghan people, including Afghan women, girls and minorities," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, according to ABC News.

Ghani called the withdrawal "historic" and said his government plans to support it.

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"Let us understand that in great moments of transition, things happen but you will see that with determination, with unity and with the partnership, we will overcome all odds," he said.

While negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban have stalled, the militant group has taken control of about four dozen districts amid the progressing U.S. withdrawal. The United States negotiated a peace deal with the Taliban last year.

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The next step of that deal, negotiations with the Afghan government, have not yet led to any results. Paski said Biden will not abandon Ghani and his government.

"The United States will remain deeply engaged with the government of Afghanistan to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the U.S. homeland," she said.

Ghani and his delegation arrived in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, which included First Vice President Amrullah Saleh. Biden previously welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House in April and South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month.

After meeting with Ghani on Thursday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called on Biden to slow troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"The Taliban, emboldened by our retreat, is rolling back years of progress, especially for the rights of Afghan women, on its way to taking Kabul," McConnell said in a statement.

"In the Taliban's wake, al-Qaida is already preparing for an ambitious resurgence of its own, which the president's own defense secretary warns could lead to direct threats to the U.S. homeland in as little as two years."

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