Blinken: Taliban must earn ‘international legitimacy and support’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday laid the groundwork for how the U.S. will engage with an Afghanistan led by the Taliban, following the full American military withdrawal from the country and conclusion of the U.S.’s longest war.
“A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy,” Blinken said. “The military mission is over, a new diplomatic mission has begun.”
The secretary’s remarks underscored the Biden administration’s recognition that the Islamic fundamentalist group controls Afghanistan, more than two weeks after it ousted the Western-backed government in Kabul.
“Going forward, any engagement with the Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only, our vital national interests,” Blinken said, stressing that the administration was not basing its engagement on “trust or faith.”
“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,” he continued.
Blinken’s remarks came more than two hours after U.S. Central Command head Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie announced that the American military evacuations, and U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, had finished.
In total, the Biden administration evacuated 123,000 civilians since July, including 6,000 Americans, with the vast majority of those being airlifted out of the country since Aug. 14.
While the U.S. had been preparing to evacuate all American forces by Aug. 31, the Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15 amid the secret fleeing of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the collapse of his government and the melting away of U.S.-trained Afghan security forces.
More than 100 Americans and thousands of Afghans at risk of violent reprisal from the Taliban remain in Afghanistan. While some of these people have decided to stay in the country, many were unable to reach evacuation flights amid fear of passing through Taliban checkpoints to the airport and a crush of crowds blocking entrance to airport gates.
President Biden kept to the Tuesday deadline to remove all U.S. troops and end military evacuations amid security risks, with a terrorist attack outside the airport last week killing 13 American service members and dozens of Afghans.
Blinken on Monday said that the U.S. will continue to work toward evacuating those people wishing to leave Afghanistan and holding the Taliban responsible for ensuring safe passage or risk global isolation and exclusion from international financial institutions and market.
“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is, any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned,” the secretary said.
The Biden administration is leading an international chorus stressing that the Taliban ensure safe travel out of Afghanistan for anyone who wants to leave.
The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on Afghanistan Monday with three main points: for the Taliban to allow safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans looking to leave the country; allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance into Afghanistan; and protect against the country becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups and the plotting of terrorist attacks.
The resolution, which was authored by the U.S., United Kingdom and France, passed the Security Council in a vote of 13 to two, with Russia and China abstaining.
“Through this resolution, the Security Council has issued a set of calls that are clear, necessary, and in the interests of Afghanistan’s people,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield said in a statement.
“Moving forward, we must address the most pressing security threats, stand up for the rights of the Afghan people, and lay the groundwork for a stable and inclusive Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan deserve nothing less.”