Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently cohosted a ministerial on Afghanistan with countries from across the globe.
Secretary Blinken focused on three areas where the alignment and cooperation of the international community are especially important.
The first is holding the Taliban to its pledge to allow foreign nationals, visa holders, and Afghans to travel outside the country if they wish. Countering the Taliban’s objection that people with expertise leaving the country will cause a “brain drain”, Secretary Blinken said, “The best way to get people to stay in Afghanistan is to allow them to leave Afghanistan, as well as to uphold their basic rights.” The United States will continue to work to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghans.
Secondly, Secretary Blinken emphasized the international community must hold the Taliban to its commitment to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for operations that threaten any country.
“Of course we can’t just rely on the Taliban to meet these commitments,” Secretary Blinken declared. “All of us have to remain vigilant and monitor threats, especially any reemergence of externally directed plotting, and address them swiftly when they arise. As President Biden has made clear, the United States will maintain robust counterterrorism capabilities in the region to neutralize any threats, and we won’t hesitate to use those capabilities if we have to do so.”
Thirdly, Secretary of State Blinken underscored the need for the international community to continue to ensure that lifesaving humanitarian assistance remains available for the Afghan people, consistent with U.S. and UN sanctions against terrorists.
“All three of these core objectives will require engagement with the Taliban, but there is a crucial distinction between engagement which we carried on throughout the evacuation, which we continue to pursue…and treating the Taliban as we do most other countries,” said Secretary Blinken. The legitimacy the Taliban professes to want, he noted, must be earned over time with a sustained commitment to the core expectations of the international community. This includes respecting the gains fought for over the last 20 years that expanded the rights of women, children, journalists, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and members of minority groups.
“To advance our shared interests,” Secretary Blinken declared, “our engagement with the Taliban has to be coherent, cleared-eyed, circumspect, and, again, as much as possible, aligned.”