KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday said his forces were “fully capable” of defending Afghanistan, as he revealed he had spoken to his US counterpart Joe Biden about the withdrawal of American soldiers.
“Tonight, I had a call with President Biden in which we discussed the US decision to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by early September. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan respects the US decision and we will work with our US partners to ensure a smooth transition,” Ghani tweeted.
“Afghanistan’s proud security and defence forces are fully capable of defending its people and country, which they have been doing all along, and for which the Afghan nation will forever remain grateful.”
Biden officially announced on Wednesday the unconditional withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, where they have spent two decades in a bloody, largely fruitless battle against the Taliban. Administration officials have said he wants the withdrawal completed by September 11, 2021.
Nato members likely to join the US in pulling out their troops by Sept 11, says German minister
US intelligence warned this week that the government in Kabul “will struggle” to hold the “confident” Taliban off if the coalition withdraws.
Many Afghans — especially women, who have been largely shut out of peace talks between the insurgents and Kabul — have long feared a return to Taliban’s rule if the US withdraws.
Analysts also fear a descent into civil war if Kabul is left to face the Taliban alone. The UN documented “extraordinary” violence against civilians in a new report on Wednesday, and said “urgent” action was needed by all parties to stop the fighting.
Meanwhile, President Biden’s national security aides were consulting with Nato on Wednesday to coordinate the alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan with the planned pullout of American troops by the 20th anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin were meeting senior officials from the alliance’s 30 members to discuss Nato’s future presence in Afghanistan in light of the announcement of the US withdrawal.
Blinken said that he expected the allies to withdraw together but maintained that neither the US nor Nato would abandon the country despite the impending pullout. There are roughly 7,000 Nato forces still in Afghanistan in addition to the remaining 2,500 US troops.
“Together, we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us,” Blinken said. “And together, we have achieved the goals that we set out to achieve. And now it is time to bring our forces home.”
Even before the group meetings began, it appeared that consensus on joint withdrawal was at hand. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Nato members were likely to decide to join the US in pulling out their troops by Sept 11.
Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2021