‘We’re going to stick with you’: US President Biden assures Afghan leaders

Washington:  President Joe Biden has told his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani that the people of Afghanistan “are going to have to decide their future” but assured him that the US is going to “stick with you” even after the American troops leave the war-torn nation by September.

Biden, who had his first face-to-face meeting with Ashraf Ghani at the White House on Friday said America’s partnership with the South Asian nation is going to be sustained.

The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending. It’s going to be sustained, Biden told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in a joint media appearance with President Ghani and the CEO Abdullah Abdullah.

American troops may be leaving, but support for Afghanistan is not ending in terms of helping maintain their military as well as economic and political support, Biden said.

“Afghans are going to have to decide their future of what they what they want. What they want. But it won’t be for lack of us being a help.

“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,” the US president assured the top Afghan leaders ahead of the US troop withdrawal before September 11.

Ghani, sitting alongside Biden, said Afghanistan was grateful for the blood and treasure America had spilled during the past two decades to defend his country, which now finds itself facing direct battle against the Taliban militants.

Biden has announced that the American military presence in Afghanistan will end by September 11 of this year the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 coordinated suicide attacks against the US by al-Qaida, which was based in Afghanistan.

The meeting between Biden and the Afghan leaders comes as Taliban fighters have captured dozens of key districts in Afghanistan in a recent offensive.

The visiting Afghan leaders also held meetings with top officials of the Biden administration including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, CIA Director William Burns and the top Congressional leadership.

As the US prepares its Afghan exit, Biden said the two visiting leaders have got very difficult jobs.

They are doing important work, trying to bring about unity among Afghan leaders — across the board. Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want. But it won’t be for lack of us being helped… The senseless violence, it has to stop, but it’s going to be very difficult,” Biden said.

Ghani said the US is entering a new chapter of bilateral relations with Afghanistan where the partnership would not only be military, but comprehensive regarding their mutual interest.

We are very encouraged and satisfied that this partnership is taking place. Thank you for ordering the priorities, he said.

The Afghan nation is at an 1861 moment, like President (Abraham) Lincoln rallying to the defence of the Republic, determined that the Republic is defended. It’s a choice of values. The values of an exclusionary system or an inclusionary system. We’re determined to have unity, coherence, national sense of sacrifice, and will not spare anything, he said.

The Afghan Defence and Security Forces have retaken six districts, both in the south and the north of the country. It’s showing our determination. So, I hope that nobody does the Bernard Shaw on us. Exaggerating our debt before something has happened, he added.

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

Earlier at the Pentagon, Defence Secretary Austin mentioned how the Department of Defense is deeply invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan and in the pursuit of a negotiated settlement . He reaffirmed the US commitment to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, especially the strong defence relationship.

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 meet your responsibilities to your citizens, said Austin.

We will remain partners with the Afghan government and the Afghan military. And we will continue to work toward our common goal in a new and different way, he added.

In his remarks, Ghani noted the shift from war to peace and how the implications of this are profound. The Afghan leader said that in his discussions with the Congress, he respected the decision of withdrawing US forces.

Ghani said Afghanistan is entering its 1861 moment when President Lincoln entered a besieged Washington and ultimately saved the United States. Afghanistan has a similar approach. The republic has strong roots in support but actually together we will be able to do it.

In a fact sheet, the White House later said the US will continue to provide assistance through its enduring partnership with Afghanistan to promote a peaceful and stable future that the Afghan people want and deserve.

Our strong support and partnership is designed to prevent Afghanistan from ever again being used as a safe haven for terrorism; maintain Afghan stability and build self-reliance; promote economic growth; preserve social gains in education, health and women’s empowerment and the rule of law; protect the rights of women, girls, and minorities; bolster Afghan civil society; and respond to humanitarian needs, the White House said.

Since 2002, the US has provided nearly USD 88 billion in security assistance, USD 36 billion in civilian assistance, including USD 787 million specifically intended to support Afghan women and girls, and nearly USD 3.9 billion in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, it further said.

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