After 20 years of war, Blinken said Washington had shifted its diplomatic presence from Kabul to Doha, the Qatari capital where the Taliban has a political office.
“Our troops have departed Afghanistan,” Blinken said in a wide-ranging address on policy toward Afghanistan. “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 United States and its allies evacuated more than 122,000 people out of Kabul since August 14, the day before the Taliban regained control of the country two decades after being removed from power by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But thousands of Afghans who helped Western countries and might have qualified for evacuation were left behind in the often chaotic, rushed operation from the airport.
Blinken said the United States, in cooperation with allies and partners, will continue a “relentless” effort to help Americans, foreign nationals, and at-risk Afghans depart either overland or by flight once the Kabul airport re-opens.
He said less than 200 U.S. citizens remained in the country — but likely closer to just 100 — and wanted to leave.
Blinken said the Taliban would need to live up to their commitments to allow freedom of travel, not carry out violent reprisals in Afghanistan, respect human and women’s rights, and not allow the country to become a base for international terrorism. Meanwhile, the United States will continue to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through the UN and other aid organizations.
“Going forward any engagement with the Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only: our vital national interests,” Blinken said.
He said the United States would work with a Taliban government if it serves U.S. interests, brings stability to the country and region, and protects fragile gains made during the two decades-long U.S. presence.
“Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments,” Blinken said. “Any legitimacy and any support will have to earned.”
The Taliban are seeking international recognition and have urged foreign diplomatic missions to stay in the country, including the United States and its allies. Most countries have closed their embassies.