G-20: Biden maintaining 'laser-focus' on Afghan people, not the Taliban

President Joe Biden attended a virtual convening of the Group of 20 on Tuesday to discuss future plans for Afghanistan, but the publicly reported agenda notably left out a number of key topics, including the country’s current rulers.

The White House’s readout of the meeting, which in addition to Biden included 17 other leaders of G-20 countries, the leaders of a number of “guest countries,” and the leaders of international financial institutions, did not mention the Taliban, which ousted the prior Afghan government on Aug. 14 and took full control of the country following the completion of the United States’s troop withdrawal just two weeks later.

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“The Leaders discussed the critical need to maintain a laser-focus on our enduring counterterrorism efforts, including against threats from ISIS-K, and ensuring safe passage for those foreign nationals and Afghan partners with documentation seeking to depart Afghanistan,” the White House wrote. “The Leaders also reaffirmed their collective commitment to provide humanitarian assistance directly to the Afghan people through independent international organizations, and to promote fundamental human rights for all Afghans, including women, girls, and members of minority groups.”

“The United States remains committed to working closely with the international community and using diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic means to address the situation in Afghanistan and support the Afghan people,” the statement concluded.

Biden also made no mention of the new Taliban government in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

“This morning, I met virtually with G20 leaders on Afghanistan,” the president tweeted. “We’re committed to working closely with the international community and using diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic means to address the situation in Afghanistan and support the Afghan people.”

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a former national security adviser in the Trump administration, was incensed at the way the Biden administration has handled the fallout from the troop withdrawal and suggested that the White House was attempting to sweep its role in allowing the Taliban to reclaim power under the rug.

“Again it shows a consistent pattern by President Biden of ignoring threats to our Nation — be it China, the border, or the Taliban,” Kellogg, who currently serves as the co-chairman of America First Policy Institute’s Center for American Security, told the Washington Examiner in a statement. “America deserves better.”

The G-20 includes the 19 countries with the largest economies in the world and the European Union, and Tuesday’s meeting was ostensibly held to discuss allowing the Taliban future access to the global financial system and preventing a total collapse of the country’s economy. The U.S., its allies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and numerous other international groups all halted sending aid directly to the Afghan government after the fall of Kabul, but the G-20 pledged to send roughly $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid directly to the Afghan people.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who originally called for the meeting in September, told reporters that distributing the aid would require close negotiations with the Taliban to ensure distribution is not blocked and that the Taliban conduct policy, specifically in regard to women’s rights, in a manner that coincides with expectations set by the global community.

“It is very hard to see how you can help people in Afghanistan without involving the Taliban,” he told reporters after the meeting. “At this time, we don’t see progress.”

The White House, the National Security Council, and the Treasury Department chose not to comment when asked by the Washington Examiner if the G-20 group discussed granting the Taliban access to the roughly $500 million in reserve funds previously held by the Ghani regime in foreign accounts. Those accounts were frozen at the request of the U.S. in late August, and Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House press secretary Jen Psaki, hinted they might be used as a bargaining chip in negotiating with the Taliban.

During her Tuesday press briefing, Psaki called the meeting “fruitful” despite Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin not taking part in the event.

“We recently announced nearly $64 million in additional humanitarian assistance in advance of today, I should say, for the people of Afghanistan,” she told reporters. “The United States is the single largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, providing nearly $330 million this year alone. We will continue to take steps to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people and call on other donors to step up their contributions to help deliver critical assistance.”

The Biden administration also installed a new official to lead the resettlement of the U.S.’s and its allies’ Afghan partners.

State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed in a statement that Ambassador Elizabeth Jones would succeed Ambassador John Bass as coordinator for Afghan relocation efforts.

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“Jones is exceptionally well-equipped to take on this critical role, returning from her retirement from the foreign service,” he wrote. “These operations will be managed along four primary areas of responsibility: relocation out of Afghanistan, third-country transit and processing outside the United States, resettlement in the United States, and overall outreach and engagement.”

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Tags: News, Afghanistan, Taliban, G20, White House, Joe Biden

Original Author: Christian Datoc

Original Location: G-20: Biden maintaining ‘laser-focus’ on Afghan people, not the Taliban