U.S. President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, emphasizing that the United States will continue its support for Afghanistan, including developmental and humanitarian aid.
Biden also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to continue supporting the Afghan security forces to defend themselves, the White House said in a statement on July 23.
Biden and Ghani agreed that the Taliban’s current offensive is in direct contradiction to its claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict, the statement said.
In recent weeks Taliban militants have brought large swaths of Afghanistan under their control, including key border crossings, as U.S.-led international forces withdraw from the country, raising increasing concerns that the Afghan government may collapse.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview with the AP on July 23 that the militants will lay down their weapons when a negotiated government acceptable to all sides in the conflict is installed in Kabul and Ghani’s government is gone.
“I want to make it clear that we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who [sought] to monopolize power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments,” said Shaheen, apparently including the Taliban’s own five-year rule in that assessment.
“So we do not want to repeat that same formula.”
Earlier on July 23, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden and his administration support the leadership of the Afghan people, including Ghani.
In their call Biden and Ghani reportedly discussed the importance of Afghans coming together to support their common interest in security and peace, and Biden “underscored continued U.S. diplomatic engagement in support of a durable and just political settlement.”
The statement also said the Biden administration has requested $3.3 billion from Congress for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, including $1 billion to ensure the Afghan Air Force and Special Mission Wing are able to support ongoing combat operations.
The request also includes $1 billion to purchase and deliver supplies for Afghan forces, such as fuel, ammunition, and spare parts, and $700 million to pay the salaries of Afghan soldiers.
The United States recently announced more than $266 million in additional humanitarian assistance and released $300 million in development and other nonhumanitarian assistance, the statement said.
Also on July 23, the U.S. State Department condemned the Taliban's targeted attacks on former interpreters and other Afghans as well as the destruction of infrastructure, urging the group to prevent such actions.
"We vehemently condemn the targeted attacks, the destruction of vital infrastructure, as well as other attacks against the people of Afghanistan," State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said at a briefing.
In virtual talks with Congress, Afghan lawmakers on July 23 voiced alarm over the state of the Afghan Air Force, saying that one-third of their fleet of 160 aircraft are inoperable and there is a shortage of U.S.-made precision-guided rockets, hampering Kabul's efforts to halt Taliban advances.
The assassinations by the Taliban of Afghan pilots has also become a problem, the lawmakers said.