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Afghan leader meets Biden as Taliban seize ground, and momentum amid U.S. withdrawal

Taliban seizes ground as U.S. troops withdraw
Taliban seizes ground as U.S. troops withdraw... 01:33

Kabul — President Biden is meeting his Afghan counterpart, President Ashraf Ghani, at the White House on Friday to discuss the ongoing U.S. military withdrawal from his country. As CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports, the meeting will come with Ghani's government under severe pressure from a Taliban offensive, and amid rising concern for thousands of Afghan civilians who worked with the U.S. military during 20 years of war.

Afghanistan has entered its most critical period since the U.S. invasion in 2001. The Taliban has made huge military advances across the country in recent months, as U.S. forces withdraw from the country. 

The United Nations says the militants have captured more than 50 of the country's 370 districts since May. Some estimates are much worse. The Taliban says Afghan soldiers are simply surrendering and abandoning their posts without a fight.

At the beginning of their meeting, Ghani expressed gratitude to the U.S. and said Afghanistan respects the president's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. 

"We are determined to have unity, coherence," Ghani said, adding that Afghanistan security forces have retaken six districts today.

Mr. Biden said U.S. support for Afghanistan will be sustained, but "Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want." 

"The partnership between Afghanistan and the United States is not ending, it's-it's going to be sustained," Mr. Biden said. "And, you know, our troops may be leaving but support for Afghanistan is not ending, in terms of support and maintenance of their- I mean maintain their military as well as economic and political support."

Afghan security chief on his country's future... 01:52

The group's advances have accelerated — keeping pace with the U.S. pullout that was sped up last month. U.S. sources tell CBS News that the withdrawal mission will be complete by mid-July, if not sooner.

But the fate of some 18,000 Afghan interpreters and their families hangs in the balance. Mr. Biden has vowed to get them out of the country, but it's a mammoth task. Some Afghan interpreters have already fled the country. 

Sources have told CBS News that the plan is to move thousands of Afghans out of the country on civilian aircraft to a third nation where they can complete the visa process, but it's a mission that will certainly depend to some degree on the logistical capabilities of the U.S. military. 

The Associated Press reported on Friday, citing unnamed U.S. officials, that about 650 American troops would likely remain in the country beyond the withdrawal to help provide security for the ongoing U.S. diplomatic presence. The AP said an additional 300 or so U.S. troops would remain stationed at Kabul's main airport until Turkish forces can fully take over that responsibility.

Reporter's Notebook: U.S. troop withdrawal 03:32

In his meeting with President Ghani on Friday, Mr. Biden will be discussing Afghanistan's new relationship with the U.S., in terms of economic and humanitarian assistance.

But as Afghan security forces give up ground the government has held for years, what Ghani needs most is substantial military assistance, and those days are over.

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