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Qatar’s ruler discusses Afghan situation with US secretaries of state and defence

Blinken is meeting Qatari leaders to thank for support in the Afghanistan evacuation. Source: Reuters

DOHA: Qatar’s ruling emir and the visiting US secretaries of state and defence discussed developments in Afghanistan and efforts to enhance security there, the emir’s court said

The emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, received US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin after their arrival in Doha earlier on Monday.

The visit came as Washington sought support for the evacuation of Americans and at-risk Afghans left behind in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover and for building a consensus among allies on how to respond to the new Islamist rulers.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Blinken and Austin thanked al-Thani “for Qatar’s extraordinary support in facilitating the safe transit of US citizens, our partners, and other Afghans at-risk.” Price added they discussed other “bilateral issues and initiatives to promote regional security and prosperity.”

Four Americans evacuated

The United States has evacuated four Americans from Afghanistan into a bordering country, a State Department official, in the first US-facilitated overland evacuation since the pullout.

Roughly 124,000 people were evacuated last month from Kabul in a massive US-led airlift of US and other foreign citizens as well as vulnerable Afghans as the Taliban took control there. US officials have said about 100 more citizens remain in Afghanistan.

“We have facilitated the departure of four American citizens from Afghanistan via an overland route. Our Embassy greeted the Americans as they crossed the border into the third country,” the official said without elaborating.

US Representative Ronny Jackson identified the four as being from his district in Texas, saying in a Twitter post they left “after 2 weeks & multiple life-threatening attempts.”

With US troops gone, the evacuation flights over, and commercial fights avoiding Kabul’s airport, which has no air traffic control, thousands of Afghans are focused on potentially hazardous overland escape.

The State Department on Sunday published a declaration by around 100 countries committed to helping Afghans reach destinations outside Afghanistan. However, none of Afghanistan’s neighbors signed up. read more

Tajikistan has pledged to accept 100,000 Afghan refugees, while Uzbekistan committed to allow transit through its territory for Americans and potentially others from Afghanistan. It is not clear how many people, if any yet, both countries have actually allowed in.

Pakistan has admitted some 2,000 Afghans employed by foreign missions, international institutions, and non-governmental groups on one-month transit visas.