US begins a new diplomatic era with Afghanistan from Qatar base

Washington, Aug 30 (EFE).- The United States opened a “new chapter” in its foreign policy towards Afghanistan on Monday with the transfer of its diplomatic mission to Qatar and conditioned any engagement with a future Taliban-led government on the insurgents fulfilling their commitments.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken unveiled the strategy after the US officially ended its two-decade war in the South Asian country.

“A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun,” the head of US diplomacy said from the State Department.

A new diplomatic team will be created to install the mission in Doha, which will be led by Ambassador Ross Wilson, who has been the charge d’affaires of the embassy in Kabul.

Consular services will be offered from the Qatari capital, in addition to the management of humanitarian assistance and working with allies and partners to “coordinate” engagement with the Taliban.

Blinken said that Washington will focus first on continuing its “relentless efforts” to help Americans, foreign nationals and Afghans who want to leave Afghanistan, and added that there are fewer than 200 US citizens left there.

Another of the US’ priorities is ensuring that the Taliban fulfill their commitment to allow people to leave the country.

“The Taliban has committed to let anyone with proper documents leave the country in a safe and orderly manner,” he said.

Blinken met virtually on Monday with the foreign ministers of the G7 countries – United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan, as well as Qatar, Turkey, the European Union, and the secretary general of NATO.

They discussed how to work together “to facilitate safe travel out of Afghanistan,” including the reopening of Kabul airport “as soon as possible.”

“This would enable a small number of daily charter flights, which is a key for anyone who wants to depart from Afghanistan moving forward,” he said.

The Taliban have also pledged to prevent terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS-K from using Afghanistan as a base of operations that could threaten the US, but Blinken said that Washington will also “remain vigilant in monitoring threats ourselves.”

On relations with a future Taliban government, the secretary of state said that “going forward, any engagement with a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only: our vital national interests.”

“If we can work with a new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests – including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a US citizen who has been held hostage in the region since early last year – and in a way that brings greater stability to the country and region and protects the gains of the past two decades, we will do it,” he said.

Still, he warned that every step the US takes in that direction will be based “not on what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments.”

He pointed out that the Taliban will have to earn any legitimacy and international support by fulfilling their obligations and commitments.

Blinken also spoke of the need for the group to grant freedom of travel; respect the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities; uphold its commitments on counterterrorism; not carry out reprisal violence against those who choose to stay in Afghanistan; and form an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people.

On Monday, the US 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. EFE


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