Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived Thursday on a surprise visit to Kabul shortly after the official announcement that the United States will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan before September 11.
Blinken, who landed around noon, met during the visit with the country’s main authorities, including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the president of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), Abdullah Abdullah, with whom he discussed the U.S. withdrawal and the peace process.
Ghani stressed during their meeting that they “respect” the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and now the Afghan government “will try to cooperate for a smooth transition,” while stressing that Afghan security forces are prepared for the defense of the country.
“Now that the United States has taken the decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, a clear discussion is needed on the beginning of a new phase of cooperation and partnership based on mutual respect and the shared interests of both countries,” the Afghan president stressed, according to a statement from his office.
According to the same note, Blinken remarked that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan “will not mean the weakening of strategic relations between the two countries”, since the United States maintains its “commitment” to the Asian country.
He added that Washington “will continue with its diplomatic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan”, in addition to supporting the troops in the Asian country and promoting “efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace process”.
Abdullah stressed that, in his meeting with Blinken, they exchanged “points of view on the US decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and the Afghan peace process”.
“I thank both him and the US government for their support for Afghanistan and their new commitment to continue to support Afghanistan and peace efforts,” Abdullah remarked on Twitter.
President Biden and Blinken announced that September 11 is the final date
The surprise visit comes after President Joe Biden yesterday officially confirmed the U.S. decision to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, a symbolic date that marked the subsequent international invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban.
Biden defended on Wednesday that this exit is because the United States fulfilled “its objective” by dismantling the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and killing its then leader, Osama bin Laden, who had been harbored by the Taliban when he masterminded the September 11 attacks in the United States.
Currently, there are about 3,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including 2,500 military and 1,000 special forces personnel; while NATO maintains another 7,000 troops, drawn from other countries, mostly from the Atlantic Alliance.
The previous administration of Donald Trump had agreed with the Taliban, in the historic agreement signed in Doha in February last year, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 14 months, a decision that Biden has only delayed.
For their part, the Taliban, who have been engaged since September in peace negotiations with the Afghan government without apparent progress, threatened yesterday to boycott all talks to end the war in Afghanistan and to resume their attacks against international troops if the United States does not withdraw its troops before the May 1 deadline.