Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered remarks Monday after the Pentagon announced the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was officially complete. Blinken said the Taliban has to earn “international legitimacy.”
Now that the Taliban is the dominant political force in Afghanistan, the US has to grapple with how to engage with the country. “Going forward, any engagement with the Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only, our vital national interests,” Blinken said. “The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is, any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned.”
The Biden administration has frozen billions in Afghan reserves that are held in US accounts and successfully pressured the International Monetary Fund into suspending Afghanistan’s access to IMF funds. Blinken suggested the US will use its financial power and influence over other countries as leverage over the Taliban, in part to ensure Americans and Afghans that worked with the US who are still in Afghanistan are free to leave the country.
“More than half the world’s countries have joined us in insisting that the Taliban let people travel outside Afghanistan freely,” Blinken said. “So the international chorus on this is strong, and it will stay strong. We will hold the Taliban to their commitment on freedom of movement for foreign nationals, visa holders, at-risk Afghans.”
While the US has significant power over the world’s financial system, US sanctions and economic warfare generally does nothing to oust the target government and only inflicts harm on the civilian population.
Blinken said that the US no longer has a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, and has moved Afghanistan-related operations to Qatar. When President Biden ordered the withdrawal back in April, the Pentagon initially planned to keep a troop presence of about 600 soldiers at the US embassy in Kabul, but those plans were spoiled by the rapid Taliban take over. The US is leaving open the possibility of bombing Afghanistan from afar, and Blinken said the US will “maintain robust capabilities” in the region to “neutralize threats” inside the country.