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Afghan President Ghani Visits White House as His Government Nears Collapse

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The Taliban have continued seizing districts in Afghanistan ahead of the U.S. military pullout set for September 11, now holding twice as much territory as they did two months ago. According to a Wall Street Journal report, U.S. intelligence agencies believe the government of Afghanistan could collapse within six months of the U.S. withdrawal. The Biden administration is reportedly planning to keep 650 troops in Afghanistan after the September 11 deadline, and the U.S. is also looking for nearby military bases for future aerial bombings and other operations. Afghan American scholar Zaher Wahab says Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is meeting with President Joe Biden this week, is “terribly isolated, out of touch and without much support” as the government continues to lose ground. “The situation in Afghanistan seems to be unraveling rather fast,” says Wahab.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.

President Biden is meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House today as the Taliban seizes more districts in Afghanistan in the midst of the U.S. military pullout, set to end on September 11th. Biden has pledged to withdraw those troops then, just under 20 years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban reportedly now holds twice as much of Afghanistan as it did two months ago. On Tuesday, the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the U.S. intelligence community has concluded the government of Afghanistan could collapse within six months of the U.S. withdrawal.

The Associated Press is reporting the U.S. is planning to keep 650 troops in Afghanistan after the September 11 deadline to provide diplomatic security and to assist Turkish troops to protect the Kabul airport. The U.S. is also looking for nearby military bases which could be used to carry out future aerial bombings and other operations. Meanwhile, Thursday, the White House confirmed it plans to evacuate 18,000 Afghan translators and others who worked for U.S. forces.

To talk more about the crisis in Afghanistan, we’re joined by Afghan American professor Zaher Wahab. He was born in Afghanistan, recently taught at American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. He’s joining us from Portland, Oregon.

Professor, thanks so much for being with us. Can you talk about the meeting today, what you expect Ashraf Ghani wants from this meeting, the president of Afghanistan, and this news report that his government will collapse within six months of the U.S. withdrawal?

ZAHER WAHAB: Yes. Good morning, Amy. And thank you for having me.

President Ashraf Ghani and his entourage of 10 people, which includes his wife, apparently, met with Senator Mitch McConnell yesterday and Senator Risch, urging them to ask the White House to extend its withdrawal and keep its commitment to preserving the Afghan government. From what I understand, President Ashraf Ghani is behaving more and more like a king and having — assuming more and more power, and therefore, it seems like he is terribly isolated, out of touch and without much support. The delegation he has with him are the usual people — four women, including his wife, and six or seven men from his administration mostly. And in Afghanistan, there’s already talk about the not representative nature of the delegation. Apparently, Mr. Ghani was trying for months to meet with President Biden alone, but President Biden was telling him, “No, I will not meet you alone. You have to come to D.C. with a broad-based, representative-inclusive delegation.” And yet, this delegation is not broad-based and not very inclusive, and it’s the usual people that he tried to use.

So, I think, as you pointed out, the situation in Afghanistan seems to be unraveling rather fast. There’s fighting going on in most of the provinces. The Taliban have captured almost a fourth of the 400 districts in the country, circling many of the major cities, like Mazar-i-Sharif and even Kabul. And the speculation is that the Taliban are getting ready for assaulting the major cities. And so, I think President Ghani is going to be asking the White House for a stronger, deeper and more extended commitment, because the Afghan national defense forces are unable to even protect their own bases. There is speculation — there is observation, you know, that, in many cases, the Afghan troops are either deserting or giving up and giving their weapons and so forth, all of the American-supplied weapons, to the Taliban, or in joining the Taliban, in some cases.

And so, the other thing that is happening in Afghanistan is that in many parts of the country, because there really has not been an effective government, a government that can provide peace —

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to reconnect and go to the U.N. refugee chief, Filippo Grandi, who said last week that the United Nations is preparing for a likely further displacement of civilians in Afghanistan after U.S. and international troops leave the country.

FILIPPO GRANDI: With the withdrawal of the international troops, this is possibly, or likely, going to become worse, and therefore, we are doing contingency planning inside the country for further displacement and in neighboring countries in case people might cross borders.

AMY GOODMAN: And at the end of a White House press briefing on Thursday, a reporter questioned President Biden about whether the U.S. would protect Afghan interpreters who aided American troops.

REPORTER: Do you know anything on these reports about moving Afghan nationals to other countries, who helped during the war?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: They’re going to come. We’ve already begun the process. Those who helped us are not going to be left behind.

REPORTER: Do you know what country they’re going to move to first?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don’t know that. I’ll be meeting with the — with Ghani tomorrow, the head — he’s coming to my office. That will be a discussion. But they’re welcome here, just like anyone else who risked their lives to help us.

AMY GOODMAN: And Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday that the schedule for pulling out remaining troops in Afghanistan may change, though at this point the September 11th deadline remains.

JOHN KIRBY: As the secretary has said, the withdrawal is on pace. It is a dynamic situation, and we’ve said that from the very beginning, which means that he and the chairman, General McKenzie, are constantly looking at the pace we’re going at and the capabilities we have and the capabilities that we’re going to need throughout to complete the withdrawal. And so, as we’ve said from the very beginning, while there is a schedule, we are mindful that that schedule could fluctuate and change as conditions change, too.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and then return to the Afghan professor, and then a remarkable moment in the gun control movement, when the former head of the NRA is tricked into giving a speech to 3,000 empty white chairs, to signify — well, he didn’t know it at the time — the more than 3,000 high school children who won’t graduate this year because they died in gun violence. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Bad Religion, here on Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we return for the last minute to Zaher Wahab, the Afghan American professor, who is speaking to us from Portland, Oregon, as Ashraf Ghani is preparing to meet with President Biden at the White House.

Finally, on this issue that you were talking about of the Afghan government possibly collapsing in six months, there’s a large coalition in the United States, from Republican to Democrat to the Pentagon, that didn’t want the U.S. to pull out. And it’s hard to separate propaganda put out by them, that the country, Afghanistan, will collapse if the U.S. pulls out, from the actual fact of the matter. Your response to this, as an Afghan living in the United States, Professor Wahab?

ZAHER WAHAB: Well, I think it’s not just the intelligence community here in the U.S. giving the Afghan government just between six and 12 months, but if you talk to the Afghans on the ground, there in fact has not been a real government, an effective government, in Afghanistan for some time now. If you talk about, you know, peace, safety, security, food, electricity, drinking water, schools, law and order, etc., none of these really exist. And the Afghans have been desperately crying for peace and stability and normalcy. And yet, you know, with the American forces and the Afghan government forces, there has been no peace and stability and security.

And now there’s talk about perhaps leaving 650 troops behind to protect the Kabul airport, but also flying these 15,000-plus Afghans who work with the Americans to Guam and then process their visas. Just think about what this indicates. What it indicates is that both Washington and the Afghan government have realized that things are at a critical point. I mean, Afghanistan is really on their brink. It could fall apart. And so — and the hope is the idea that these few troops and maybe the Turks will save the day. At the same time, we know that the so-called Doha peace talks have collapsed, and there’s not even a mention of the conference that was supposed to take place between the different factions [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: Well —

ZAHER WAHAB: — in Istanbul. So, you know, I think Afghanistan is really on the brink. And I would say that we very quickly install a U.N. peacekeeping force and then worry about these other things. Right now 600 troops, more troops, or 6,000, they’re not going to save the country. We had a hundred —

AMY GOODMAN: Afghan American professor Zaher Wahab, speaking to us from Portland, Oregon. We’ll see what happens at this meeting between President Ghani of Afghanistan and President Biden, and we’ll report on it next week. Professor Wahab recently taught at the [American] University of Afghanistan in Kabul, joining us from Portland, Oregon.

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