US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he will travel to Qatar to meet with the country's leaders and thank them for their help with evacuees from Afghanistan, and later go to Germany for a ministerial meeting.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about Afghanistan during a media briefing at the State Department, in Washington, US, September 3, 2021
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about Afghanistan during a media briefing at the State Department, in Washington, US, September 3, 2021 (Reuters)

The US has been "working closely" with its allies in Turkey and Qatar on quickly reopening Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

"We're working closely with our partners Qatar and Turkey to help get the airport in Kabul up and running as quickly as possible," he told reporters at the State Department on Friday.

Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are set to visit Qatar in a joint bid to thank the kingdom for its ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, they also announced on Friday.

The senior Biden administration officials will depart Washington on Sunday, and Blinken said he would be meeting with Doha's leaders "to express our deep gratitude for all that they’re doing to support the evacuation effort."

"I’ll also have a chance to meet with Afghans, including our locally-employed staff from Embassy Kabul, who are now safely in Doha preparing for their journey to the United States," said Blinken.

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Upcoming visit to allies

Qatar played a critical role in facilitating US-Taliban peace talks, and served as a pivotal intermediary amid the hasty evacuation effort that concluded earlier this week.

During his travel that will also take him to Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Austin "will meet with regional partners and thank them for their cooperation with the United States as we evacuated Americans, Afghans and citizens from other nations from Afghanistan," the Pentagon said in a statement.

The top US diplomat said he would then head to Germany to lead a virtual 20-nation ministerial meeting on Afghanistan alongside Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

The countries "all have a stake in helping to relocate and resettle Afghans and in holding the Taliban to their commitments," Blinken said.

He added that he will visit Ramstein Air Base in Germany to meet with Afghans seeking refugee status with the US, and Americans who are facilitating that effort at the military facility.

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US contact with the Taliban

Blinken also said the US government was maintaining contact with the Taliban. 

"We continue to maintain channels of communication with the Taliban, on issues that are important," Blinken said.

The State Department was "in constant contact" with Americans remaining in Afghanistan who still wish to leave the country, Blinken added.

"We have dedicated teams assigned to each of these American citizens to be in constant contact with them. We're providing them with very tailored, very specific guidance," he divulged.

Almost all of those remaining are dual nationals whose homes are in Afghanistan and whose extended families live there, Blinken said.

Blinken also described the department's efforts since President Joe Biden took office in January to speed the processing of special visas for Afghans who worked with US forces during the 20-year war, thousands of whom are still in Afghanistan.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies