Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday that Washington would move its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan to Qatar following the completion of the military withdrawal.
In a speech from the State Department headquarters, Blinken outlined the main points of his country’s foreign policy from now on with respect to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have regained power.
The foreign minister indicated that a new diplomatic team will be created to set up the mission in Doha, which will be headed by Ross Wilson, who until now has been the chargé d’affaires of the embassy in Kabul.
Consular services will be provided from the Qatari capital, in addition to managing humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and working with allies and partners to “coordinate” dealings with the Taliban.
“A new episode in America’s relationship with Afghanistan has begun. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun,” said the head of American diplomacy.
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He explained that in this new era of American foreign policy toward the Central Asian country, Washington will first focus on continuing its “tireless efforts” to help Americans, foreign nationals and Afghans, who want to leave Afghanistan.
Blinken recalled that there are fewer than 200 American citizens left there.
Another U.S. priority is to hold the Taliban to their commitment to allow people who want to travel out of the country: “They have committed to let anyone who has the proper documents leave the country in a safe and orderly manner.”
Blinken met virtually Monday with the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Qatar, as well as the European Union (EU) and NATO.
In that meeting, they discussed how to work together “to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan,” including reopening the Kabul airport “as soon as possible.”
“This would allow for a small number of daily charter flights, which is key for anyone wishing to leave Afghanistan,” he reckoned.
The Taliban have also pledged to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base of operations that could threaten the United States, but Blinken admitted that the United States will remain “vigilant” for possible non-compliance.
On relations with a future Taliban government, the secretary of state said any ties would always be guided by “vital national interests” of the USA.
“If we can work with the new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests —including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a U.S. citizen who has been held hostage in the region since early last year— and in a way that brings greater stability (…) then we will do so,” he said.
He pointed out that the Taliban will have to earn any legitimacy and international support by fulfilling their obligations and commitments.
On Monday, the United States put an end to the longest war in its history with the withdrawal of its last soldiers from Afghanistan, almost 20 years after their deployment in the country.