US troop withdrawal: Blinken lands in Afghanistan on unannounced trip

Kabul, Apr 15 (EFE).- Secretary of State Antony Blinken Thursday landed in Kabul on a previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan after United States President Joe Biden announced his plans to withdraw American troops from the war-ravaged country by Sep.11.

Blinken arrived in Kabul around noon and met President Ashraf Ghani and his top peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah, who heads the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR).

A statement from his office said that Ghani told Blinken that the Afghan government respected the US decision to withdraw troops and assured him that they would “try to cooperate in a smooth transition.”

“Now that the United States has made the decision of withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan, there is need for a clear discussion over the start of a new phase of cooperation and partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interests of the two countries,” Ghani said.

Blinken, according to the statement, said the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan would “not mean weakening of our strategic relations between the two countries.”

“The United States is committed to its commitments toward the people and government of Afghanistan,” he stressed.

He vowed that the US would continue its diplomatic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and continue efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace process.

Abdullah said he and Blinken exchanged views on the US decision to withdraw troops and the Afghan peace process.

“I thanked him and the US government for its support to Afghanistan and its new commitment to continue supporting Afghanistan and the peace efforts,” Abdullah tweeted.

The surprise visit came after President Biden confirmed Wednesday that the US would pull out its remaining troops from Afghanistan before Sep.11 that marks the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The attacks provoked the American invasion of the country and overthrowing of the Taliban government.

Biden defended the US exit, saying the American troops were sent to Afghanistan in 2001 to root out al Qaeda and prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States planned from Afghanistan.

“Our objective was clear. The cause was just. Our NATO allies and partners rallied beside us. And I supported that military action, along with overwhelming majority of the members of Congress,” he said.

He said the objective to dismantle al Qaeda and the death of its leader, Osama bin Laden, had been achieved.

Pakistan, long accused of harboring the Taliban and providing a haven to its fighters, welcomed the US decision to pull out soldiers from Afghanistan.

A foreign ministry spokesperson said Pakistan would continue to work with the international community for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“We believe there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and a negotiated political solution through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process is important for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson said.

Currently, about 3,500 US troops are in Afghanistan. These include 2,500 military personnel and 1,000 members of the special forces.

NATO maintains another 7,000 soldiers, coming from other countries, especially from the alliance.

The previous administration of Donald Trump had agreed to pull out American troops from Afghanistan by May this year after signing a pact with the Taliban in Doha in February 2020. EFE

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