Blinken in Doha for chats on Afghan crisis with Qatar

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DOHA: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Doha on Monday for crisis talks with the Qataris after the Taliban claimed to possess full control over Afghanistan.

Shortly before landing, a politician disclosed that four Americans had left Afghanistan with Taliban knowledge, within the first departures arranged by Washington since its chaotic military pullout.

The four US citizens left by land and were greeted by US diplomats, said the senior official, without specifying to which country they crossed, adding that “the Taliban didn’t impede them”.

Blinken, amid Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, is that the most senior US official to go to the region since the Taliban’s lightning takeover of Afghanistan on Assumption .

He wasn’t thanks to meet any of the Taliban’s Doha representatives but State Department official Dean Thompson said Washington would still engage with the group “to ensure our messaging with them is clear”.

“We are thankful for Qatar’s close collaboration on Afghanistan,” the State Department said before Blinken’s arrival in Doha at 1500 GMT.

Blinken’s team praised Doha’s “indispensable support in facilitating the transit folks citizens, embassy Kabul personnel, at-risk Afghans, and other evacuees from Afghanistan through Qatar”.

Qatar, which hosts a serious US airbase, has been the gateway for 55,000 people airlifted out of Afghanistan, nearly half the entire number evacuated by US-led forces after the Taliban’s lightning takeover.

Before his arrival, Blinken said that in Qatar he would “express our deep gratitude for all that they’re doing to support the evacuation effort” and meet rescued Afghans.

He also will meet US diplomats, after Washington relocated its embassy in Kabul to Doha, along side variety of allies including Britain and therefore the Netherlands.

The State Department said Blinken would ask Qatar its efforts, alongside Turkey, to reopen Kabul’s ramshackle airport — essential to fly in badly needed humanitarian aid and to evacuate remaining Afghans.

Qatar invited the Taliban to open a political office in Doha in 2013, subsequently hosting talks between Washington and therefore the Taliban that concluded in 2020 with a troop withdrawal agreement. it had been followed by direct negotiations between the previous insurgents and Afghan government.

The Taliban on Monday claimed total control over Afghanistan, saying that they had won the key battle for the Panjshir Valley, the last remaining holdout of resistance against their rule.

The group is yet to finalise its new regime after rolling into the capital Kabul three weeks ago at a speed that analysts say likely surprised even the hardline Islamists themselves.

After Doha, Blinken will head to the US air station at Ramstein in Germany, a short lived home for thousands of Afghans moving to the us .

US officials say some Americans may have left Afghanistan since the us ended its 20-year war at the top of August but they might have done so by private means.

Washington is closely watching whether the Taliban makes good on promises to allow us to citizens and allies depart because it decides the way to affect the Islamists.

US officials say just over 100 Americans, mostly dual nationals, remain in Afghanistan after the huge airlift of tens of thousands of individuals within the last days of America’s longest war. President Joe Biden’s Republican rivals are quick to accuse him of abandoning Americans.

But tens of thousands of interpreters or others who supported the US mission and their relations are believed to stay , with many fearing retribution despite Taliban assurances.

With the Kabul airport in disarray, land routes are the key answer of Afghanistan, primarily though Pakistan or Iran, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Washington.

While at Ramstein, Blinken will hold a virtual 20-nation ministerial meeting on the crisis alongside German secretary of state Heiko Maas.

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