Washington [US], June 25 (ANI): Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah on Friday met with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin III at the Pentagon.
The Afghan leaders are also scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House.
The visit comes amid the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Ghani and Abdullah are likely to discuss how the United States and Afghanistan will continue to work together in the future.
Biden had earlier announced that the US will start its final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan on May 1 and complete its pullout ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F Kirby said in a statement that during the visit of Afghan leaders, 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 US homeland.
Kirby was peppered with questions about the status of thousands of Afghans who have worked with US 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 statement said.
The State Department is in the lead in this effort, Pentagon Press Secretary 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.
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, he added.
"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 US and partner nations) in the most efficient, timely and orderly way possible," the press secretary said, adding that "It's not like we haven't done this before. This is not an uncommon mission set for the US government."
Kirby said everyone in the US 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. (ANI)