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Looking at 'options' on diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after Aug 31: US

2021 Aug 26, 18:32, Washington
President Joe Biden's choices in Afghanistan boil down to this: Withdraw all troops by May, as promised by his predecessor, and risk a resurgence of extremist dangers, or stay and possibly prolong the war in hopes of compelling the Taliban to make peace with a weak and fractured government.

The US has said it is looking at a number of "options" on its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the August 31 withdrawal deadline.

August 31 is the cut-off date set by both the US and the Taliban for America's pullout from the war-torn country.

"With regard to our own potential presence going forward after the 31st, we're looking at a number of options, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

"I'm sure we'll have more on that in the coming days and weeks, but we're looking at a variety of options, he said, referring to America's diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal deadline.

Over the next few days, Blinken said, the focus of the US is on getting American citizens, other Afghan partners, third-country partners -- who were working in Afghanistan with the US — out of Afghanistan and to safety.

And for that purpose, "whether we like it or not", it's important to work with the Taliban, who are "largely in control of Afghanistan", to try to facilitate and ensure the departure of all those who want to leave, Blinken said.

"And that has actually been something that we've been focused on from the beginning of this operation, because as a practical matter it advances our interests, he added.

According to Blinken, the US has been engaged with the Taliban for some time diplomatically going back years in efforts, to try to advance a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan.

There's still talks and conversations underway even now between the Taliban and former members of the Afghan government with regard, for example, to a transfer of power and some inclusivity in a future government. I think it's in our interest where possible to support those efforts, he said.

Going forward, Blinken said, the US will judge its engagement with any Taliban-led government in Afghanistan based on one simple proposition: America's interests, "and does it help us advance them or not".

"If engagement with the government can advance the enduring interests we will have in counterterrorism, the enduring interest we'll have in trying to help the Afghan people who need humanitarian assistance, in the enduring interest we have in seeing that the rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls, are upheld, then we'll do it, he said.

But fundamentally, the nature of that engagement and the nature of any relationship depends entirely on the actions and conduct of the Taliban, Blinken asserted.

If a future government upholds the basic rights of the Afghan people, if it makes good on its commitments to ensure that Afghanistan cannot be used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks directed against us and our allies and partners, and in the first instance, if it makes good on its commitments to allow people who want to leave Afghanistan to leave, that's a government we can work with, he said.

If it doesn't, we will make sure that we use every appropriate tool at our disposal to isolate that government, and as I said before, Afghanistan will be a pariah, said the top American diplomat.


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