US President Joe Biden met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House on Friday, as the US military continues to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah was also present at the meeting.
What did the leaders say during the meeting?
Biden pledged a “sustained” US-Afghanistan partnership, despite the ongoing drawdown of US and NATO troops. At the same time, Biden said US forces should take a step back from the conflict.
“Afghans are going to have to decide their future,” Biden told reporters. The US president added that the “senseless violence has to stop” in Afghanistan.
US troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and have remained in the country for nearly two decades. Critics warn the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban will take over the country following the US withdrawal.
Ghani said the US-Afghan relationship is entering a new era, and added that he respects Biden’s pullout decision. He said Afghan government troops retook six districts in the country from enemy forces on Friday.
“We are determined to have unity, coherence,” Ghani said
The Afghan leaders also met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday. The leaders met with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, an ardent critic of the pullout, on Thursday.
Why is Biden withdrawing US troops?
Biden is withdrawing 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan by September 11 because he believes American on-the-ground military operations have gone on for long enough in the South Asian country. He contends the US should focus on other security threats, such as the rise of China.
The war in Afghanistan has also had an enormous human cost fo the American military. The Defense Department says 2,400 US troops have been killed and over 20,000 injured since the war began in 2001.
For Afghans, the cost has been even greater, with some estimates showing around 66,000 Afghan troops have been killed in the past two decades. Millions of Afghan civilians have also been forced to flee their homeland due to the fighting.
The US intends to continue monitoring security threats in Afghanistan from neighboring countries, and may even conduct military strikes towards enemy groups from afar. Roughly 650 US troops will also remain in Afghanistan to provide security for American diplomats.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the US, has agreed to secure Kabul’s international airport after the pullout.