US Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Kabul on Thursday to show support for the Afghan government a day after US President Joe Biden announced that he was pulling US forces out after nearly 20 years of war.
Biden’s decision precipitated a decision by NATO allies to withdraw their troops as well, even as the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani remains embroiled in fierce fighting with Taliban insurgents and a US-backed peace process shrouded in uncertainty.
The foreign troop withdrawals have raised concerns that the country could erupt in full-scale civil war, providing al Qaeda space in which to rebuild.
Blinken went to meet with Ghani at the presidential palace after first greeting US soldiers at the heavily fortified American embassy.
“The reason I’m here, so quickly after the president’s speech last night, is to demonstrate literally, by our presence, that we have an enduring an ongoing commitment to Afghanistan,” Blinken said at the embassy, according to a press pool report.
At the palace, he assured Ghani that “the partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring.”
He apparently was referring to Biden’s assurances that the United States would continue to support the Afghan government through diplomacy and assistance and remain engaged in efforts to secure a peace accord with Taliban Islamists.
Blinken also met with Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, who expressed support for the US decision.
“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 in a statement.
Biden said on Wednesday US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan starting May 1 and would be gone before Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on the United States that triggered the US-led invasion.
Foreign troops under NATO command will also withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with the US pull-out, NATO allies agreed. The withdrawal of foreign troops will be completed by Sept 11.