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Blinken Talks on Afghan Dilemma in Qatar

September 07, 2021

After the Taliban claimed full control of Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Doha on Monday for crisis talks with Qataris. Shortly before the landing, an official revealed that four Americans had left Afghanistan with Taliban knowledge, the first such departures arranged by the US since its chaotic military withdrawal.

According to the senior official, the four Americans arrived by land and were welcomed by US diplomats who did not specify which country they passed into, but did say that “the Taliban did not obstruct them.” Blinken is the most senior US official to visit the region since the Taliban’s ignite takeover of Afghanistan on August 15. He is accompanied by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. He was not scheduled to meet with any Taliban representatives in Doha, but State Department narrator Dean Thompson said the US would continue to be involved with the group “to make sure our converstaion with them is clear.”

The State Department said ahead of Blinken’s entrance in Doha at 1500 GMT, “We are grateful for Qatar’s close cooperation on Afghanistan.” Blinken’s team lauded Doha for its “invaluable assistance in aiding the passage of US citizens, embassy Kabul personnel, at-risk Afghans, and other evacuees from Afghanistan through Qatar.” Qatar, which hosts a major US airbase, has served as a transit point for 55,000 people airlifted out of Afghanistan, accounting for nearly half of the total number of people evacuated by US-led forces following the Taliban’s lightning takeover.

Blinken stated before his arrival that he would “articulate our deepest appreciation for all that they’re doing to endorse the evacuation effort” in Qatar and meet escaped Afghans. He will also meet with US officials after Washington, along with a number of allies including the UK and the Netherlands, relocated their embassies in Kabul to Doha. Blinken will meet with Qatar and Turkey to discuss efforts to reopen Kabul’s falling down airport, which is critical for bringing in desperately needed humanitarian aid and evacuating remaining Afghans.

In 2013, Qatar invited the Taliban to open a political office in Doha, and in 2014, Qatar hosted talks between the US and the Taliban, which resulted in a troop withdrawal agreement in 2020. Direct talks between the former militants and the Afghan government followed. The Taliban claimed total control of Afghanistan on Monday, claiming victory in the key battle for the Panjshir Valley, the last bastion of opposition to their rule. After rolling into Kabul three weeks ago at a speed that analyst believe surprised even hard – line Islamic extremists themselves, the group has yet to finalize its new regime.

Following Doha, Blinken will travel to Ramstein, Germany, a US air base that serves as a temporary home for large numbers of Afghans relocating to the US. According to US officials, Some Americans may have left Afghanistan since the US ended its 20-year war at the end of August but they would have done so on their own funds. As it considers how to deal with the Islamists, Washington is keeping a close eye on whether the Taliban keeps their promises to let US citizens and allies leave.

After an enormous airlift of tens of thousands of people in the final days of America’s longest war, US officials say only about 100 Americans, mostly dual nationals, remain in Afghanistan. Republican opponents have accused Vice President Joe Biden of renouncing Americans. Despite Taliban pledges, thousands of people of consultants and others who supported the US mission as well as their families are believed to have remained. With the Kabul airport in shambles, land routes are the only way out of Afghanistan, mainly via Pakistan or Iran neither has any diplomatic relations with the US. Blinken, along with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, will hold a virtual 20-nation ministerial meeting on the crisis at Ramstein.

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