Blinken Consults NATO About Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

March 23, 2021 by Daniel Mollenkamp
FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo President-elect Joe Biden listens as his Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

BRUSSELS- During his tour of America’s European allies this week, where he’s embracing the need to “revitalize” transatlantic relations, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is also feeling out NATO on whether or not to pull our troops from Afghanistan this summer.

Blinken commented at a press conference that he was there to “listen and consult” with NATO about Afghanistan, and he heavily stressed that any action taken will be done “together.”

Under the current agreement, the troops would be withdrawn by May 1, a date that looms ever closer. 

“All options are on the table and no final decision has been taken, but I think it is extremely important that allies consult closely,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

President Joseph Biden has indicated that keeping that withdrawal date would be “tough.” 

The reluctance to withdraw has centered on the desire to find what Secretary Blinken calls a “responsible end” to the conflict, which would ensure that Afghanistan will not become a stronghold for terrorists. A Congressional report from earlier this year stressed that the Taliban has not kept up its end of the agreement and that there is a need to ensure that troop withdrawal does not spoil humanitarian gains made in the region, such as women’s empowerment.  A report in late February from the U.S. Office of the Inspector General also flagged the need to guard women’s rights in the region.

Secretary Blinken arrived in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. It is his first visit to the headquarters as secretary of state. These discussions are also the first time NATO ministers are meeting in person at the headquarters in more than a year.

In addition to Afghanistan, the meetings will prepare the way for NATO’s summit later this year, where they will “future proof” the alliance by setting the NATO 2030 initiative. They intend to set the transatlantic agenda for a wide range of issues including Russia, which Finland and Sweden will join to discuss on Wednesday, as well as China, and the Middle East and North Africa region. 

Blinken also met with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to restate the U.S. position on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which could involve America sanctioning companies involved with its completion Blinken has warned. 

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