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Secretary of State Blinken makes surprise trip to Afghanistan

▶ Watch Video: Biden announces full withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11

Washington — Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Thursday in an effort to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to the country after President Biden said American troops would be leaving by September 11.

During his visit, Blinken met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the presidential palace and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, as well as civic leaders at the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

“I wanted to demonstrate with my visit the ongoing commitment of the United States to the Islamic Republic and the people of Afghanistan,” he told Ghani. “The partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center right, walks with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar, center left, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, April 15, 2021. 

Presidential Palace via AP

Blinken is the second member of Mr. Biden’s Cabinet to visit Afghanistan, following Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who visited the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul during his own surprise trip last month. The two were in Brussels this week meeting with NATO General Jens Stoltenberg and other officials about the decision to leave Afghanistan and other priorities.

Blinken’s trip comes on the heels of Mr. Biden’s announcement Wednesday that all U.S. forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11. That date marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that launched the nation into America’s longest war. 

“With the terror threat now in many places, keeping thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country at a cost of billions each year makes little sense to me, and to our leaders,” Mr. Biden said in remarks from the Treaty Room at the White House, the same place where President George W. Bush announced airstrikes in Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago. “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create ideal conditions for a withdrawal, and expecting a different result.”

The president stressed that while the U.S. will not be involved in Afghanistan militarily, diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue. 

With the new deadline for completing the drawdown in Afghanistan, Mr. Biden is missing a May 1 target for full withdrawal set by the Trump administration under an agreement reached with the Taliban last year.

The president spoke with Ghani before announcing his decision to leave Afghanistan, the White House said. The Afghan president told Blinken during his visit, “we respect the decision and are adjusting our priorities.”


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