US suspends diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, moves mission to Qatar
'We will continue our relentless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals and Afghans, leave Afghanistan'
The United States has suspended its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and will conduct its operations out of Qatar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, adding Washington will press ahead with its "relentless" efforts to help people leave the country, even after its troops have pulled out.
Blinken’s statement comes after the departure of the last US plane, leaving behind thousands of Afghans who helped Western countries and might have qualified for evacuation.
The operation came to an end before the Tuesday deadline set by President Joe Biden, who has drawn heavy criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for his handling of Afghanistan since the Taliban made rapid advances and took over Kabul earlier this month.
In his remarks, Blinken said Washington would conduct its Afghanistan diplomacy including consular work and administering humanitarian assistance out of Qatar's capital Doha, with a team headed by Ian McCary, the deputy chief of the US mission to Afghanistan.
As of today, we have suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar. For the time being, we will use this post in Doha to manage our diplomacy with Afghanistan.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 31, 2021
"A new chapter of America's engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It's one in which we will lead with our diplomacy," Blinken said and added: "We will continue our relentless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals and Afghans, leave Afghanistan, if they choose."
He said close to more than 100 Americans were still believed to remain in Afghanistan who wanted to leave but Washington was trying to determine their exact number. Over 6,000 Americans have been evacuated.
More than 122,000 people have been flown out of Kabul since August 14, the day before the Taliban regained control of the country.
As the fate of the Kabul airport, the country's main gateway to the rest of the world, remained uncertain following the US departure and Taliban takeover, Blinken said Washington was working to find ways to help Americans and others who may choose to depart via overland routes.
"We have no illusion that any of this will be easy or rapid," he said.
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