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The security and humanitarian issues at stake in Afghanistan, US-Mexico border

Amna Nawaz joins Judy Woodruff to discuss President Joe Biden's meeting Friday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the White House, and Vice President Kamala Harris' first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    After President Biden's meeting today with Afghan leaders in the Oval Office, we turn to our Amna Nawaz, who is reporting from the White House.

    So, hello, Amna.

    What more can you tell us about the president's meeting with these Afghan leaders and how the — this administration is working through the security issues?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, Judy, by all appearances, that meeting today between President Biden, President Ghani of Afghanistan and the leader of the Reconciliation Council — that's Abdullah Abdullah — was all smiles. It was a very friendly atmosphere, President Biden welcoming, as he called them, old friends to the White House.

    But it was a tough meeting because of those underlying issues, because, remember, the U.S. negotiated their withdrawal from Afghanistan not with those leaders, not with the government, but with the Taliban.

    So, the White House today wanted to focus more on what that continuing support, that enduring friendship with Afghanistan looks like. And they point to a few things. They point to $260 million in humanitarian assistance, $3 billion in security assistance and three million doses of that COVID-19 vaccine also going to Afghanistan.

    But the shadow over all of this and the meeting today at the White House is that deteriorating situation the ground, the government forces on the back foot, and some very dire predictions about what could be ahead for the Afghan government.

    Now, I asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about some of Nick's reporting, that conversation we just saw with the Taliban spokesman, and this repeated message from the Taliban that any continued U.S. troop president would be seen as a violation of the U.S. commitment to them.

    We know also that Taliban spokesman said in a text message to one of our colleagues last night that even the diplomatic presence by the U.S. would be seen as a violation of the commitment and would prolong war. Jen Psaki said, look, the president has been very clear about this in public. And negotiators, she claims, have been very clear with the Taliban in private, the U.S. intends to have an ongoing diplomatic presence, and they will do whatever is necessary to secure it — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Amna, you're following another story today, and that is Vice President Kamala Harris, her trip to the Southern border.

    As we reported, this is after being criticized for not going there. How did the trip — how's the trip gone?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    Well, we know, of course, part of her portfolio is to oversee those root causes and address those from — coming from those three Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. She's been fielding a lot of questions since getting that portfolio about when she was going to the border from journalists, but also criticism from Republicans about why she had not been.

    Harris' office and Symone Sanders from her office told us last night, of course she always planned to go, but because her portfolio has a foreign policy lens, she wanted to go to Guatemala and Mexico first to look at the causes.

    The trip to the border today takes a closer look at the effects. So she saw that, as we mentioned in the news summary, by visiting the port of entry, the central processing center, one of the busiest ports of entry in the entire country, we should mention, in El Paso. She spoke with some agents, spoke with some migrants.

    We should know, Judy, she did not visit Fort Bliss, which is right now one of the emergency intake shelters that was set up very quickly to address the influx of unaccompanied children that was coming across the border earlier months. That facility can hold up to about 5,000 children and was the subject of some concerns because of disturbing reports about conditions inside.

    I asked the White House about this. And, actually, a White House official told me she may not have visited the facility, but she did meet with the managing attorney who oversees legal services for children there and also that, of course, this remains a concern from them. The shelter is getting more resources.

    I should also mention I spoke with Veronica Escobar, who accompanied Vice President Harris on the trip. She's, of course, the congresswoman representing that district. She had invited Harris. After they spoke, she published an op-ed earlier in the year, saying, this is what we need to do at the border.

    And that is part of the backstory of how this trip came to be today — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Amna, back to Afghanistan, the other issue outstanding is what's going to happen to American hostages that are still being held in Afghanistan. What do we know about that?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    Well, I asked the White House press secretary about the case of Mark Frerichs that we have reported. He has been held by the Taliban for over a year. Jen Psaki said the president's message is that he will continue to work to release any Americans detained overseas.

    A White House official I spoke to said that his name, Mark Frerichs' name, has been mentioned by the lead U.S. negotiator to the Taliban in recent discussions.

    But I have to tell you, Judy, the family, who I spoke with today, a source close to them says they remain concerned that, as U.S. forces continue to leave, they will lose leverage to have their loved one freed — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Amna Nawaz, reporting on it all from the White House, thank you.

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