| 27 May 2024, Monday |

Blinken heads to Qatar amid unfolding Afghan situation

In his first trip since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed to Qatara, which has a  major US military base and has been a gateway for 55,000 people airlifted out of Afghanistan after Taliban’s takeover of the country.

After his visit to Qatar, Blinken will head to US airbase of Ramstein in Germany. Thousands of Afghans moving to United States have been temporarily housed at the air base. Blinken will hold a a virtual 20-nation ministerial meeting on the crisis alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Blinken said that in Qatar he will “express our deep gratitude for all that they’re doing to support the evacuation effort” and meet rescued Afghans as well as US diplomats, who have relocated functions from the shuttered embassy in Kabul to Doha.

He will also speak to the Qataris about efforts alongside Turkey to reopen Kabul’s ramshackle airport — a pressing priority that is necessary for flying in badly needed humanitarian aid and evacuating remaining Afghans.

The Taliban have promised that they will keep letting Afghans leave if they want to — one of the key issues that US allies expect to discuss in the talks in Germany.

The US says it will monitor the Taliban’s follow-up on commitments

But US officials said that Blinken does not plan to meet the Taliban, who have also made Doha their diplomatic base from which they negotiated the US pullout with the previous administration of Donald Trump.

“On the scope of high-level engagement with the Taliban, I would put that sort of in the recognition category to be considered or to be determined as we see what happens with their efforts to govern,” said Dean Thompson, the top US diplomat for South and Central Asia.