WASHINGTON – American diplomats have left Afghanistan and the US embassy in Kabul remains closed, Foreign Secretary Antony J. Blinken said Monday after the military announced it had completed its withdrawal from the country.
The breakdown of US diplomacy was an amazing turnaround of plans to stay and help Afghanistan break away from 20 years of war and work towards peace, however weak, with a government that would share power with the Taliban . Earlier this month, Mr. Blinken had promised that the United States would remain “deeply engaged” in Afghanistan long after the military was withdrawn.
But that mission largely failed on August 15 when the Taliban invaded the capital, Kabul, forcing President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country and American diplomats to evacuate to a US military-secured area at the international airport.
Mr Blinken’s comments came as the last US military flights left Afghanistan carrying a small core of diplomats trying to apply for immigrant visas for tens of thousands of Afghans and approximately 6,000 American citizens on a two-week evacuation mission from Kabul airport.
American diplomats will continue to be deployed in Afghanistan, but from outside its borders. Mr Blinken said the effort would now be brought out of Qatar.
Of paramount concern to the Biden government are the people – including a small number of US citizens – who have been left behind. Officials said fewer than 200 were still trying to leave.
Until recently, the embassy in Kabul was one of the largest American diplomatic missions in the world. Just weeks before it closed and the American flag was lowered outside its headquarters, the embassy staff numbered around 4,000, including some 1,400 US diplomats, contractors and officials from other US agencies.
Hundreds of American diplomats had served there after the embassy was retaken by the Marines in December 2001 during the US-led invasion. It had been closed since 1989 when the Soviet military withdrew from Afghanistan after a ten year war.
Before the fall of Kabul, President Biden had promised that the end of the war would mean the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, but not the diplomatic corps. Years of frustrated peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government should continue, largely encouraged by the United States.
“Even if we withdraw our forces from Afghanistan, the United States and our partners remain deeply involved,” said Blinken, who left the State Department on August 2. We will continue to be intensely diplomatic in order to advance the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban with the aim of a political solution which, in our opinion, is the only way to lasting peace. “