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Anthony Blinken visits Qatar, country at the heart of dialogue with the Taliban

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken left for Qatar on Sunday for his first trip since the Taliban came to power.

The diplomatic ballet continues around Afghanistan. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken left for Qatar on Sunday (September 5th) on his first trip since the Taliban took power, in search of a united front with the allies.

The wealthy Gulf emirate is a hub for diplomacy over Afghanistan, and its rulers have maintained close ties with former Afghan rebels in power since mid-August.

As such, the Qataris have been playing facilitators in exchanges between the Americans and the Taliban for many months.

More than 55,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan have also passed through Qatar, which hosts a major US military base, almost half of the total number of people evacuated by the Americans after the meteoric return of fundamentalist Islamists to Kabul.

The US military set up in mid-August in the Afghan capital a gigantic airlift which evacuated until its withdrawal some 123,000 people – of which 75% to 80% were “vulnerable Afghans”, according to Washington .

No meeting with the Taliban

After Qatar, Anthony Blinken will visit Ramstein air base in Germany on Wednesday, which is temporarily hosting thousands of Afghans en route to the United States. The Secretary of State will hold a virtual ministerial meeting there on the crisis with officials from 20 countries, alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Anthony Blinken said that in Qatar he would express “our deep appreciation for all they are doing in support of the evacuation efforts,” and meet with evacuated Afghans as well as US diplomats relocated to Doha.

He will also speak to the Qataris of the difficult efforts, in collaboration with Turkey, to reopen the Kabul airport, closed since the Americans left, a priority to deliver the necessary humanitarian aid and evacuate the remaining Afghans.

The Taliban have promised that they will continue to let Afghans go if they wish. This is one of the key issues that US allies intend to address during talks in Germany.

According to US officials, Antony Blinken does not plan to meet with the Taliban, who also made Doha a base for their diplomacy and from where they negotiated the US withdrawal with the previous US administration of Donald Trump. But such a dialogue does not seem to be totally excluded in the future.

With AFP

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