Troop withdrawal: US will maintain strong diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, says Tony Blinken

·3-min read

Washington, Jun 9 (PTI) The US is only withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, not withdrawing from the country, and it is determined to maintain a strong diplomatic presence there to extend economic and humanitarian support, Secretary of State Tony Blinken has said.

On the directions of President Joe Biden, the US is in the process of withdrawing all its troops from Afghanistan by September. It has already withdrawn about half of its troops from the war-torn country.

'Even as we're withdrawing forces from Afghanistan, we are not withdrawing from Afghanistan. We're determined to maintain a strong embassy presence. Other countries are as well,' Blinken on Tuesday told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee during a Congressional hearing on the 2022 Budget Request for the State Department.

Responding to apprehensions of senators about the future of several programmes in Afghanistan, including those for women and children, Blinken assured them that the programmes will continue with the support of the Congress.

He said the government which represents the people and their interest, is the government that the US and the international community will support.

'Right now, there are conversations, discussions, potentially negotiations going on between the government and the Taliban, and to see if they can come to a peaceful accommodation and end the conflict,' the secretary of state said.

'But, as it stands, we're withdrawing our forces, we're not withdrawing from Afghanistan. We remain very much engaged. We're determine a strong programmatic presence to make sure we can continue to support economic and humanitarian development, and security assistance support for the Afghan government and for the Afghan people,' he said.

If a government of Afghanistan emerges as a result of force or if a future Afghanistan does not respect the basic rights that have been established for its people, including women and girls, it is safe to say that that Afghanistan will be a pariah internationally, not just for the US, but for countries around the world, Blinken said.

Reiterating that withdrawal of troops is not a withdrawal from Afghanistan, he said a strong embassy will remain in place. “We are working on everything we need to do to make sure that we can sustain that diplomatic presence, as well as the diplomatic presence of others.” “The embassy will be responsible for all of our programmes. Our ability to sustain economic, humanitarian, development, and security assistance is critical. And the embassy is the linchpin of that,” said the secretary of state.

At a Pentagon news conference, its press secretary, John Kirby, said America’s support for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces is going to be largely in the financial realm, and there will be some over-the-horizon logistical support for things like aviation maintenance.

“We are mindful of the need for good aircraft maintenance, and we're certainly mindful of how important the Afghan Air Force and the Special Missions Wing are to their self-defense capabilities. I can assure you we're working on this very, very hard, and again, when we have more detail to provide, we certainly will,” Kirby said. PTI LKJ ANB ANB

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