Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani faces the cold reality of the end of US military presence in Afghanistan Friday when he meets with President Joe Biden in the White House.
With his government under increasing threat from an emboldened Taliban insurgency, Ghani will be hoping for a significant commitment of US aid for his government, which will be without the on-the-ground support of US forces for the first time in nearly two decades.
But any hopes for a delay in America’s exit from its longest war are likely to be snuffed.
Biden has ordered the departure of all US forces from Afghanistan by this year’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that triggered the invasion, saying he believes that no more can be achieved.
The final pullout, announced in April, has moved fast and some speculate the exit of some 2,500 US troops and 16,000 civilian contractors could be mostly completed in July.
“This visit is first about our ongoing commitment and support to the Afghan people and to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.
“The president will emphasize the need for unity, cohesion, and for the Afghan government to focus on key challenges Afghanistan faces.”
Deep uncertainty as Taliban gain
Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who is in charge of stalled negotiations with the Taliban on a power-sharing deal, arrived in Washington on Thursday as the rebels continued to gain ground in the country, both physically and propaganda-wise.
The looming US exit has left the country in a deep state of uncertainty, with many worried about the return to power of extremists who applied a brutal version of Islam to the population when they ruled from 1996-2001.
The Wall Street Journal reported that a new US intelligence report assesses that the Taliban could possibly capture Kabul within six months — though other experts downplay that scenario, at least in the short-term.
Still, the situation is being compared to the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973.
Two years later, the South Vietnamese government that Washington had backed and then abandoned fell to North Vietnamese troops.