WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday he would travel to Qatar on Sunday to meet with the country’s leaders and thank them for their help with evacuees from Afghanistan, and later go to Germany for a ministerial meeting.
Blinken told a news conference at the State Department he would meet with Afghans and workers in the Qatari capital Doha “who are doing truly heroic work around the clock.”
He said he would travel to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany where he also would meet with Afghans. The ministerial meeting will be held virtually with partners, including more than 20 countries that have a stake in relocating and settling Afghans.
Blinken also said the U.S. government was maintaining contact with the Taliban. “We continue to maintain channels of communication with the Taliban, on issues that are important,” Blinken said.
The State Department was “in constant contact” with Americans remaining in Afghanistan who still wish to leave the country, Blinken said.
“We have dedicated teams assigned to each of these American citizens to be in constant contact with them. We’re providing them with very tailored, very specific guidance,” he said.
Almost all of those remaining are dual nationals whose homes are in Afghanistan and whose extended families live there, Blinken said.
“It’s no surprise that deciding whether or not to leave the place they call home is a wrenching decision,” he said.
Blinken also described the department’s efforts since President Joe Biden took office in January to speed the processing of special visas for Afghans who worked with U.S. forces during the 20-year war, thousands of whom are still in Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Doina Chiacu, Arshad Mohammed and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Grant McCool)