The White House on Wednesday said that US President Joe Biden would not be okay if the Taliban ruled Afghanistan while underlining that there is an ongoing process of considering the next steps to ensure peace in the war-torn country.
The US and the Taliban reached an agreement in February 2020 that called for a permanent ceasefire, peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, and a withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 1. There are about 2,500 US troops currently in the country.
The Taliban had their ouster at the hands of US-led troops in 2001.
“I don’t think he would say he’d be okay with that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday when asked if Biden is okay with the Taliban ruling Afghanistan.
“But again, there’s an ongoing process of considering the next steps in Afghanistan. That’s an ongoing discussion, and I’m not going to get ahead of where that sits at this point in time,” Psaki said.
Separately, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has been in constant communication with Afghan partners about the ongoing review process and how they are working their way through that.
“We are mindful of looming deadlines here and everybody shares the sense of alacrity when it comes to working our way through this review but we want to do it in a thoughtful, deliberate way, to make sure that whatever decisions are made, they’re the best ones, that are in our best national security interests and certainly the security interests of our allies and partners, and that includes the Afghan people,” he said.
Meanwhile, during a Congressional hearing General (rtd) Joseph F. Dunford, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that Talban gets its financial support from drug trade.
“We know that the Taliban have had sanctuary in Pakistan. We know that they have an active diplomatic effort travelling to Moscow, travelling to Beijing, travelling to other countries. We know they travel in the Gulf. We know Iran has provided some material support,” he said.
The Taliban, he said is a Sunni terrorist organisation. “There’s no question that the Taliban originates from the madrassas in Pakistan,” he said in response to a question.
Dunford told lawmakers that the terrorist threat has been reduced because of the US trained Afghan forces and continued US military presence.
“We believe that the threat can reconstitute itself in a period of about 18 to 36 months and present a threat to the homeland and to our allies,” he said adding that the Afghan forces are highly dependent on US funding, as well as operational support. They will remain so for some time.
“The probability of civil war is high in the wake of a precipitous US withdrawal,” he said, adding that Afghanistan meets the definition of a fragile state. Despite very real challenges, with support, the Afghan government can deliver minimally effective governance.
Dunford, who chairs Afghan Study Group of the US Institute of Peace, told lawmakers that the Taliban were not meeting the conditionality of the February 2020 agreement. That was as a result of not seeing a broad reduction in violence and as a result of not seeing the Taliban demonstrate the will or capacity to prevent Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a platform.
“We are not advocating for a unilateral declaration that we remain behind after the first of May. We’re recommending that the Taliban actually hear that same message from other regional stakeholders, not the least of which is China, Russia and Pakistan,” he said.
“We do think that continued negotiations with the Taliban to highlight the fact that we remain committed to the February 2020 Agreement. We have demonstrated that, by drawing down to 2,500, we remain committed,” he said.