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Blinken to visit Qatar, Germany over Afghanistan issue

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that he will soon travel to Qatar and then Germany over the Afghanistan issue.

“On Sunday, I’ll be traveling to Doha, where I’ll meet with Qatari leaders to express our deep gratitude for all that they’re doing to support the evacuation effort,” Blinken told reporters during a press briefing.

In Germany, Blinken will meet with his German counterpart Heiko Maas and hold a ministerial meeting on Afghanistan with over 20 countries that “have a stake in” relocating and settling Afghans.

Blinken said earlier this week that the United States had suspended its diplomatic presence in Kabul but will manage diplomacy with Afghanistan from Doha, Qatar.

“Our new team in Doha is up and running,” he said in the briefing.

The top U.S. diplomat noted that the United States continues to maintain communication channels with the Afghan Taliban “on issues that are important to us, starting with the commitment to let people leave Afghanistan should they choose to do so.”

A senior State Department official later told media that Blinken has no plans to meet with representatives of the Taliban in Doha.

Blinken reserved comment when asked about the U.S. position on a new Afghan government, while pointing to expectations of “real inclusivity” and fulfilling previous commitments made by the Taliban.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will also head to Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia on Sunday. The Pentagon said earlier in the day that Austin will meet with regional partners on the trip to thank them for their cooperation during the evacuation.

Over 120,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan since mid-August when the Taliban entered Kabul, and Qatar played a key role in this U.S.-led evacuation mission.

The United States on Monday announced the completion of the hasty and chaotic withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, ending 20 years of the U.S.-led invasion into the Asian country.

“We are committed to looking at everything we’ve done from day one through the present and to draw lessons from it,” Blinken said on Friday. “There also needs to be, including across the state department, a look back at the entire 20 years to understand the entire course of this war and engagement with Afghanistan and to ask the right questions and to learn the right lessons from that.”

A total of 2,461 U.S. military personnel have been killed in America’s longest war, with 20,000 others wounded. Estimates showed that over 66,000 Afghan troops have been killed, and over 2.7 million people have been forced to leave their homes. Enditem

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