US President Joe Biden is scheduled to host a visiting Afghan government delegation at the Oval Office on Friday for talks about planned withdrawal of US-led coalition forces from the war-ravaged country.
The high-ranking delegation led by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also includes the head of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar, among others.
The much-anticipated meeting comes weeks before the drawdown of foreign forces from Afghanistan is complete and amidst dangerous spike in violence targeting both civilians and government forces.
The military drawdown, which formally began on May 1, has sparked a wave of fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents, dealing heavy blows to ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha.
Ghani’s beleaguered government in Kabul has been under tremendous pressure with mounting attacks in different parts of the country and loss of sizable territory to the militant group.
It has also faced growing calls from the US government to step aside for a transitional government, as agreed between the Taliban and the US government in their so-called ‘peace deal’.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement on Thursday said Biden's first meeting with Ghani and Abdullah since taking over as the US president will focus on “our ongoing commitment to the Afghan people" and security forces,
The US president will urge Ghani and Abdullah “to be a united front” and he will reaffirm US support for a “negotiated peace deal”, she added.
However, US officials have made it emphatically clear that the US president will go ahead with the scheduled troop pullout – which is likely to be complete by late July or early August.
Biden is also unlikely to approve any US military support to Kabul administration to deal with Taliban's advances beyond advice, intelligence, and aircraft maintenance, according to media reports.
This has in turn fueled fears in Kabul that the Taliban might come back to power, with the help of US, exposing people to great danger.
Biden has reportedly asked the US Congress to approve $3.3 billion in security assistance for Afghanistan next year, while at the same time continuing back-channel talks with the militant group. The duality in US policy toward Afghanistan has drawn sharp criticism,
The Afghan delegation, which arrived in the US on Thursday, spent the day discussing with lawmakers on Capitol Hill emerging security challenges in the war-torn country. The visiting delegation is expected to hold a series of meetings in Washington.
Biden, who pledged to end America's "forever wars," announced in April that all US forces would leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2001, ahead of May 1 deadline set by his predecessor.
However, according to reports, US troops and their NATO allies seek the way out of Afghanistan by early to mid-July, well ahead of Biden’s Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline.