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Afghan Leaders To Visit White House As Taliban Pushes To Seize More Districts

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (center) and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (left) attend a meeting in Kabul.

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, at the White House on June 25, the White House has announced.

"The visit by President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan as the military drawdown continues," the June 20 statement said.

The Taliban said the visit would be "useless."

Ghani and Abdullah "will talk with the U.S. officials for preservation of their power and personal interest," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. "It won't benefit Afghanistan."

There was no immediate reaction from Ghani's office but a senior Afghan official was quoted by Reuters as saying the Afghan president would be seeking assurances from the United States over its continued support for Afghan security forces in the aftermath of the withdrawal.

U.S.-led international forces are in the process of leaving the country by September 11, a deadline set by Biden earlier this year to end a two-decade conflict begun after Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden planned the 9/11 attacks on the United States from his Afghan hideout.

The announcement of the visit by Ghani and Abdullah comes as Taliban insurgents pile up victories in the provinces, where they have wrested control of dozens of districts since the withdrawal formally began on May 1.

Local Afghan officials said on June 19 that at least six more districts -- in the provinces of Takhar, Faryab, Jawzjan, Samangan, Farah, and Paktia -- had fallen into militant hands in less than a week.

The seizures along with spiraling violence that has killed dozens of civilians have compounded the international frustration over stalled peace talks between the Taliban and the Western-backed government.

The White House statement on June 20 said the United States continues to support the peace process and encourages all Afghan parties" to participate meaningfully in negotiations to bring an end to the conflict."

It also said that the United States is committed to supporting the Afghan people by providing diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian assistance, including assistance to Afghan women, girls, and minorities, and reiterated a pledge to remain engaged with Afghan government "to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the U.S. homeland."

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department announced more than $266 million in new humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, bringing to nearly $3.9 billion the amount of U.S. humanitarian aid to Afghanistan since 2002.

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