Blinken: U.S. will use lessons learned in Afghanistan to shape national security, foreign policy

Secretary of State Antony Blinken
(Image credit: Jonathan Ernst/AFP via Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a televised address on Monday night to mark the conclusion of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, telling Americans that "a new chapter has begun — one in which we will lead with our diplomacy."

Blinken thanked the U.S. troops and State Department employees who helped evacuate Americans and at-risk Afghans over the last few weeks, and honored the 13 service members who were killed during a suicide bombing in Kabul last week. They showed "compassionate courage" while in Afghanistan and their deaths are "a devastating loss for our country," Blinken said.

The U.S. has a new diplomatic mission, Blinken stated, and has suspended its diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred operations to Doha, Qatar. "Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take," he explained. It is estimated that between 100 and 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan, and the State Department is working to see if they want to leave or remain in the country. Blinken said many are dual citizens who have lived in Afghanistan for years, and may not want to go, but if they change their minds the U.S. will offer assistance.

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"We will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan," Blinken said. "The Taliban has committed to letting anyone with proper documents leave the country in a safe and orderly manner — they've said this privately and publicly many times." Blinken promised to hold the Taliban accountable for all pledges they have made, including ensuring that Al Qaeda, ISIS-K, and other terror groups aren't able to hide out in Afghanistan.

The U.S. will not "rely on the Taliban" when it comes to counterterrorism efforts, and "will remain vigilant in monitoring threats ourselves and maintain robust counterterrorism capabilities in the region to neutralize those threats if necessary," Blinken said. Engagement with the Taliban is driven "by one thing only: our vital national interests," he added. The U.S. is not doing this on the "basis of trust or faith," Blinken said, and to earn any international legitimacy or support, the Taliban must meet commitments and obligations, including freedom of travel and "respecting basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities."

In the coming months, thousands of Afghans will be welcomed to the United States, Blinken said, and humanitarian aid will continue to be sent to Afghanistan. Now is the time to look back at the two decades the U.S. spent at war in Afghanistan and "learn its lessons and allow those lessons to shape how we think about fundamental questions of national security and foreign policy," Blinken declared. "We owe that to future diplomats, policymakers, military leaders, service members. We owe that to the American people."

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