Joe Biden vows ‘sustained’ help as Afghanistan drawdown nears

  • ITV News Senior Correspondent Paul Davies reports on why there is fear of a 'bloodbath'

President Joe Biden on Friday promised to Afghanistan’s top leaders a “sustained” partnership even as he moves to pull troops out. While President Biden vowed that the US was committed to assisting Afghanistan, he also insisted that it was time for the military to step back.

“Afghans are going to have to decide their future,” President Biden said in brief remarks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

The leaders’ visit to Washington comes as the Biden administration has stepped up plans for withdrawal ahead of the president’s September 11 deadline to end a nearly 20-year old war that has come at enormous cost. More than 2,400 US troops have been killed and 20,000 wounded in the war since 2001, according to the Defence Department.

Former MP Rory Stewart explains why the withdrawal of troops could spell such danger for the region

It’s estimated that over 3,800 US private security contractors have been killed.

The suffering has been even greater for Afghanistan with estimates showing more than 66,000 Afghan troops killed and more than 2.7 million forced to flee their homes — mostly to Iran.

Roughly 650 American troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main American military force completes its withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks, US officials told the Associated Press.

Several hundred additional American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September.

They’ll assist Turkish troops providing security, a temporary move until a more formal Turkey-led security operation is in place, the officials said on Thursday.

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Overall, officials said the US expects to have American and coalition military command, its leadership, and most troops out by July 4, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders developed months ago.

The officials were not authorised to discuss details of the withdrawal and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

It comes amid accelerating Taliban battlefield gains, fuelling fears that the Afghan government and its military could collapse in a matter of months.

“We are determined to have unity, coherence,” Ghani said at the start of the meeting with Biden and Abdullah.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking on Friday in Paris, noted the increased violence and cited “a real danger” that if the Taliban tries to take the country by force, “we’ll see a renewal of a war or possibly worse.”