Washington will demonstrate “enduring” support for Afghanistan even after the U.S. withdraws its troops from the country later this year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an unannounced visit to Kabul on Thursday.
“The reason I’m here … is to demonstrate literally, by our presence, that we have an enduring and ongoing commitment to Afghanistan,” Blinken said during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on April 15.
“Even when our troops come home, our partnership with Afghanistan will continue,” America’s top diplomat vowed.
The U.S. said Wednesday it plans to completely withdraw all 2,500 of its remaining troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, and that it will begin the process on May 1. The administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump had scheduled the Afghan troop withdrawal to be completed by May 1, 2021, meaning the new withdrawal deadline proposed by U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday serves as an extension of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan by over four months.
رئیس جمهور محمد اشرف غنی ظهر امروز با انتونی بلینکن وزیر امور خارجه ایالات متحدۀ امریکا که در راس یک هیات عالی رتبۀ آن کشور به کابل آمده بود، دیدار کرد. pic.twitter.com/7UrqM8yDcA
— ارگ (@ARG_AFG) April 15, 2021
Blinken personally expressed Washington’s commitment to maintaining a non-military presence in Afghanistan after September 11 to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday during a meeting with the leader in Kabul.
“The United States will continue its diplomatic and humanitarian support to Afghanistan and its security and defense forces, and will continue its efforts to facilitate the Afghan peace process,” Blinken told Ghani during their meeting, according to a statement released by the Afghan presidential palace.
Blinke said the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan “would not weaken the strategic relationship between the two countries and that the United States was committed to its commitment to the Afghan government and people,” according to the statement.
“The partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring,” Blinken assured Ghani of the U.S.-Afghan bilateral relationship.
Blinken also met with Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, on Thursday during his eight-hour stay in Kabul.
“This does not mean the end of relations and cooperation between the two countries. A new chapter of relations and cooperation between the two countries has returned and we will continue our cooperation in various fields in this chapter,” Abdullah said after meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State.
President Ghani on Wednesday said Afghanistan would continue working with the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.) partners after the American troop withdrawal. He said the parties would seek peace with the Taliban terror group, which the U.S. and N.A.T.O. had originally sought to oust from power when the U.S. War in Afghanistan started in 2001.
“As we move into the next phase in our partnership, we will continue to work with our US/NATO partners in the ongoing peace efforts,” Ghani said in a statement on April 14.