On Monday, the Biden administration completed its evacuation of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, leaving the country under the complete control of the Taliban while an unknown number of Americans and Afghan allies remain stranded in the region.
Echoing the words of Gen. McKenzie, Blinken announced that the next mission in Afghanistan will be one of diplomacy despite the fact that the U.S. has no diplomatic presence in the region and has left its few remaining allies to fend for themselves:
A new chapter of America's engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It's one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun.
So here's our plan for the days and weeks ahead. First, we built a new team to help lead this new mission. As of today, we have suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar, which will soon be formally notified to Congress. Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take.
For the time being, we will use this post in Doha to manage our diplomacy with Afghanistan, including consular affairs, administering humanitarian assistance, and working with allies, partners, and regional and international stakeholders to coordinate our engagement and messaging to the Taliban.
While Blinken said the United States will seek to hold the Taliban accountable in their commitment to rooting out terrorist networks in Afghanistan, he was unclear as to exactly how the U.S. will leverage the Taliban into staying true to their word beyond the government's desire for “international legitimacy.”
“Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments,” he said. “The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is: any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned.”
China has already stated it stands ready to recognize and resume relations with the Taliban. As Foreign Policy profiled, friendly relations between China and Afghanistan are all but inevitable.
“Now that the Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan, China is likely to recognize and legitimize the new leadership within the coming weeks or months,” noted the outlet.
Secretary of State @SecBlinken: "A new chapter of America's engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It's one in which we will lead with our diplomacy. The military mission is over. A new diplomatic mission has begun." https://t.co/7tNfE4Eqyq pic.twitter.com/EUBm9vLBaD
— The Hill (@thehill) August 30, 2021
Blinken says the US government will hold the Taliban to their pledge to let anyone leave Afghanistan who wants to. Yeah, with zero leverage. Same lie the Taliban told last time they took power. Fool me once…
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) August 30, 2021
During an earlier press conference on Monday, Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie similarly declared that containing the Taliban and terrorism in Afghanistan will be an issue of diplomacy.
“The military phase of this operation has ended. The diplomatic sequel to that will now begin. … The military phase is over. The weapons have just shifted from the military realm to the diplomatic realm,” he said.
Gen. McKenzie on Afghanistan: "The military phase of this operation has ended. The diplomatic sequel to that will now begin. … The military phase is over. The weapons have just shifted from the military realm to the diplomatic realm."
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) August 30, 2021