Doha: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that the Taliban was living up to its promise to drive out Afghans during a visit to Qatar as it listened to concerns about the country’s future.
Blinken met with Afghan evacuation and US teams on a two-day visit to Qatar, the transit point for nearly half of the more than 120,000 people airlifted from Afghanistan since the Taliban took power on August 15.
President Joe Biden has faced mounting pressure from activists and Republican rivals who say the Taliban are preventing several hundred people, including Americans, from exiting the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on scheduled charter flights over the past week. . .
But Blinken said the United States was in re-contact with the Taliban on Tuesday, which promised to “freely depart” the Afghans – led by Islamists as the future of the United States in Afghanistan weighs on an important test. Whether to work with the government or not.
“We don’t know if anyone is being held on the plane or there is a hostage-like situation at Mazar-i-Sharif,” Blinken told a news conference in Doha.
“We have been re-assured that all US citizens and Afghan nationals with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave,” Blinken said.
“We want to limit the Taliban to that.” He said the United States was seeking to address problems with charter flights, including a lack of security checks and the identification of some passengers.
He said the Taliban cooperated when a family of four American citizens left the land, the first such departure arranged by the US government since the chaotic end of the 20-year US war.
Qatar told Blinken it was moving swiftly with Turkey to restore Kabul airport, a move that would allow more people to leave and humanitarian supplies to arrive.
Blinken and Austin commended Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and visited Al Udeed Military Airport outside Doha, which became the busiest point of entry for evacuated Afghans.
In an aircraft hangar to protect them from the scorching desert heat, Blinken walked behind about 200 green cots – now empty as Afghans moved out – and tables where American soldiers distributed water, baby formula and nappies.
She later met members of the Afghan girls’ robotics team, which became a symbol of progress in a country where from 1996–2001 the pre-Taliban regime strictly banned female education as part of a more serious interpretation of Islam . .
About 20 high school girls spread across the world, including Mexico and Qatar, awarded them scholarships on Tuesday.
Roya Mahboob, an entrepreneur who supports the so-called “Afghan Dreamers”, expressed admiration for the evacuation, but was concerned about the thousands of other students and teachers still in Afghanistan.
“I think everyone is scared about the future of Afghanistan,” she told Blinken. He sympathized, but acknowledged that questions remain after Biden pulled troops out of Afghanistan.
“So much change is happening. I can’t tell you where everything is going to land,” Blinken told him.
He said the US is committed to the education of girls and helping Afghan refugees.
“We are also committed to helping all those who are still in Afghanistan looking to a different future.
“This will go on in many different ways in the coming weeks, months to come, and probably even years to come,” said Blinken, the stepson of a Holocaust survivor who has long been an advocate for refugees.
Published in Dawn, September 8, 2021