US Secretary of State to visit Qatar to express gratitude for help with Afghan airlift

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday he would travel next week to Qatar and Germany for talks on the Afghanistan crisis. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will also visit Qatar on Sunday at the start of a trip to several Gulf allies.

Blinken told reporters he would leave Sunday and voice “deep gratitude” to Qatar, a key hub for the massive US airlift of Afghans, as the Taliban swiftly took control of Afghanistan.

The top US diplomat said he would then head to Germany to lead a virtual 20-nation ministerial meeting on Afghanistan alongside Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

The countries “all have a stake in helping to relocate and resettle Afghans and in holding the Taliban to their commitments”, Blinken said.

He was referring to the Taliban’s promises to let Afghans leave the country even after the United States ended its 20-year military mission there earlier this week.

Defense Secretary Austin will also leave on a trip Sunday that begins in Qatar, which has served as the base for diplomacy with the Taliban.

Austin will then visit Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, also military allies of the United States, the Pentagon said.

“Throughout his trip, Secretary Austin will meet with regional partners and thank them for their cooperation with the United States as we evacuated Americans, Afghans and citizens from other nations from Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

The United States’ longest war culminated with a hastily organised airlift that left thousands of US-allied Afghans behind and was punctuated by a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport that killed 13 US troops and scores of Afghans.

It was one of the largest airlifts in history, evacuating more than 120,000 Americans, Afghans and people of other nationalities.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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