(Doha) During an official visit to Qatar on Tuesday, the head of US diplomacy received a new firm promise from the Taliban that Afghans who wanted to leave the country could do so unhindered.
Posted on Sep 7, 2021 at 6:20 am
Shaun TANDON Agence France-Presse
For its part, Qatar confirmed the imminent reopening of Kabul airport without giving a date.
Antony Blinken, accompanied by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, said at a press conference that he had received a promise from the new masters of Kabul to “release persons with travel documents”.
“We will wait for you on this matter,” he added. “The entire international community is waiting for the Taliban to honor this commitment.”
According to Marina LeGree, director of the American NGO Ascend Athletics, Joe Biden’s administration is under pressure from the sometimes confusing information about hundreds of people, including Americans, stranded at Mazar-i-Sharif airport in northern Afghanistan.
In total, between 600 and 1,300 people, including 19 Americans, are trying to flee with the help of her organization and other authorities, she said.
In this regard, Blinken stated that the Taliban had not prevented anyone from leaving with valid papers, but that not all passengers on charter flights had them. There is no “hostage-like situation” in Mazar-i-Sharif, he said, arguing that the United States has no ground personnel.
“We are unable to verify the accuracy of the passenger lists, identify the passengers aboard these aircraft, the security protocols, or the location where (the devices) are supposed to land. These are real concerns, ”he explained. “We are discussing while I speak to you to clarify these issues.”
For their part, Qatar and its Turkish ally have been working for several days to reopen Kabul airport, the structures of which were overwhelmed after the Taliban came to power in mid-August and closed after the Americans left.
The airport is essential, especially for the humanitarian delivery delivery that is essential today and even more so when winter hits Afghanistan.
“We will not forget”
As a neutral and influential mediator, Qatar has become a major player in the crisis. In particular, he welcomed the negotiations concluded in 2020 between Donald Trump’s USA and the Taliban, then between the latter and the Afghan opposition of the now ousted President Ashraf Ghani.
This visit by Antony Blinken and LLoyd Austin to Doha marks the first visit by high-ranking American officials to the region since August 15 and the departure of the last American soldiers from Kabul two weeks later under appalling conditions.
On Monday evening the two men were received by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani for dinner. “Many countries have intervened to take part in the evacuations in Afghanistan, but none have done more than the Qataris,” said Blinken on Tuesday with a view to the approximately 58,000 refugees who have passed Doha.
“The men, women and children who were there will not forget us either,” he hammered solemnly. In particular, Doha provided 10,000 meals three times a day, opened its hospitals and coordinated the work of humanitarian organizations.
Mr Blinken was then due to meet with officials from Al Udeid, the US military base in Qatar that hosts thousands of Afghan refugees.
He will leave on Wednesday morning for Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, which is temporarily hosting thousands of other Afghans on their way to the United States. Together with his German counterpart Heiko Maas, he will lead a virtual ministerial meeting from around twenty countries, a kind of emerging “contact group” on the Afghanistan crisis.
For his part, Mr. Austin is on a golf trip that will also take him to Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
On Monday evening, an American official stated that, for the first time since their departure at the end of August, four nationals of the same family had left Afghanistan by land as part of the trips arranged by the United States. The Taliban had been informed and had “not prevented” them from leaving Afghanistan, he added, without specifying which border country these Americans had entered.