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White House Says Biden Backs Afghan President Ghani, Leaders Held Phone Call

U.S. President Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on July 23 and continues to support the war-torn country's leader in the face of calls by Taliban militants for his removal to bring about peace.

"The president and the administration support the leadership of the Afghan people, including Ashraf Ghani," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a press briefing.

In recent weeks, Taliban militants have brought large swathes of Afghanistan under their control, including key border crossings, as U.S.-led international forces withdraw from the country, raising concerns that the Afghan government may collapse.

The AP quoted Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen as saying in an interview 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.

“So we do not want to repeat that same formula.”

Memories of the Taliban’s last time in power some 20 years ago, when the extremist group enforced a harsh brand of Islam that denied girls an education, barred women from work, and committed many grave human rights abuses, have stoked fears of its potential return among many.

The United States plans to complete its troop withdrawal by August 31.

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 regular news 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.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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