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Afghan Leaders to Visit White House, Pentagon

June 25, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, meet with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Pentagon today, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.

The Afghan leaders are also scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden at the White House. 

The visit comes as the U.S. retrograde from Afghanistan proceeds. Ghani and Abdullah will discuss how the United States and Afghanistan will continue to work together in the future.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III shakes hands with one official as another stands by.
Pentagon Welcome
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III greets Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, center left, during a bilateral exchange at the Pentagon, June 25, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 210625-D-BM568-3025R

"During their visit, Secretary Austin will emphasize the United States' enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan and to the department's goal of ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the U.S. homeland," Kirby said.

Kirby was peppered with questions about the status of thousands of Afghans who have worked with U.S. and partner nations over the past 20 years of war in the country. These men and women and their families qualify for special immigrant visas. 

The State Department is in the lead in this effort, Kirby said, but the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Defense also have roles in getting these people to safety.

"The idea here is to be able to facilitate their departure from Afghanistan to another location so that they can complete the [special immigrant visa] process," Kirby said. 

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The interagency planning is looking at ways to facilitate transportation for these people out of Afghanistan. This could be done in any number of ways, Kirby said. "I'm not going to speak to timelines here," he said. "The direction from the commander in chief has been clear that we will be out by early September, and that is still the order that we're obeying."

The situation in Afghanistan is dynamic, but the retrograde is on pace. "We're going to continue to try to [relocate the Afghan people who helped the U.S. and partner nations] in the most efficient, timely and orderly way possible," the press secretary said. "It's not like we haven't done this before. This is not an uncommon mission set for the U.S. government."

Kirby said everyone in the U.S. government takes this mission very seriously. "We know we have an obligation to these men and women and their families, and we're working our way through how best to meet that obligation," he said.