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Ashraf Ghani, left, president of Afghanistan, and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As the U.S. troop withdrawal accelerates, President Biden will welcome Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, at the White House on Friday.

Our thought bubble: Axios politics editor Glen Johnson, who traveled to Afghanistan while working for Secretary of State John Kerry, said inviting both Ghani and Abdullah to Washington shows the administration’s respect for the delicate balance of power in the country.

  • The two worked out an initial power-sharing agreement in 2014 that has faltered over the years but, since renewed in May 2020, has largely provided a framework for governance and engagement with the United States and the rest of the world.
  • The Afghan government now faces its greatest peril as the United States withdraws its troops and the Taliban recaptures territory and asserts itself.
  • Inviting both leaders for talks in Washington is both a sign of respect and a means for the Biden administration to have direct engagement and give the two leaders a public sign of support back home.

Between the lines: Glen reports that Pentagon officials fear a bloodbath when the U.S. completes its troop withdrawal.

  • The president has set a Sept. 11 deadline, to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but Defense Department officials expect the withdrawal to largely be completed by July 4.

Afghanistan's former president, Hamid Karzai, said Sunday that the United States has failed its primary objectives to "fight extremism and bring stability" to the war-ravaged nation, the Associated Press reports.

What they're saying: “The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear objective of fighting extremism and bringing stability ... but extremism is at the highest point today. So they have failed,” Karzai said, per AP.

  • “We recognize as Afghans all our failures, but what about the bigger forces and powers who came here for exactly that purpose? Where are they leaving us now? In total disgrace."
  • "The United States will remain deeply engaged with the Government of Afghanistan to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist groups who pose a threat to the U.S. homeland," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Sunday. "The United States continues to fully support the ongoing peace process and encourages all Afghan parties to participate meaningfully in negotiations to bring an end to the conflict."

Go deeper: Pakistan PM will "absolutely not" allow CIA to use bases for Afghanistan operations

Go deeper

Aug 2, 2021 - World

U.S. expands Afghan refugee program as Taliban violence escalates

The American flag is reflected on the windows of the U.S. embassy building in Kabul on July 30, 2021. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department announced Monday it is expanding grants of eligibility for refugee status in the U.S. for at-risk Afghans, citing an increase in violence by the Taliban ahead of the U.S. military's total withdrawal.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has faced pressure to do more to help Afghans who assisted the U.S. military over the course of the two-decade war. The expansion will allow thousands more Afghans and their family members to apply for permanent refugee resettlement, according to the State Department.

2 wildfires ravage Northern California homes as thousands evacuate

Firefighters monitoring the scene as flames from the Dixie Fire jump across highway 89 near Greenville, California, on Tuesday. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Two massive California wildfires have triggered new mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of people and destroyed homes and businesses in the state's north overnight.

Details: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through the town of Greenville and surrounding areas in Plumas County Wednesday night. The rapidly spreading River Fire burned "multiple" homes as it tore through Placer and Nevada counties, KOVR notes.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Team USA's Ryan Crouser competing on Thursday in the men's Olympic shot put final in Tokyo, which he won. Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

🥇: Ryan Crouser breaks his own Olympic shot put record to win gold for U.S.

🏐: U.S. Olympic beach volleyball duo one step away from realizing gold medal dream

🤼🏿‍♀️ "Making history": Mensah-Stock first Black woman to win Olympic wrestling gold

🛹: 2 teens and girl, 12, sweep board at women's park skateboarding

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

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