Blinken: US Will Not Lift Sanctions, Will Ensure Aid to Afghans

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WASHINGTON – The United States says it will not lift existing sanctions on the Taliban but will ensure lifesaving humanitarian aid to vulnerable Afghans amid what the United Nations described as “an imminent crisis” in the country.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on Tuesday to continue humanitarian aid to the Afghan people through UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, a day after the United States said it would provide about $64 million in new humanitarian aid. Will do

The top US diplomat faced yet another round of tough questioning from lawmakers over the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last month, while testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee the day before.

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During a three-and-a-half-hour hearing on Tuesday, Blinken said the additional funding would “measure critical health and nutritional needs, address the safety concerns of women, children and minorities to help more children — including girls — go back to school.” So to receive.”

Blinken also told senators that he would name a senior State Department official to focus on support for Afghan women, girls and minorities.

FILE – Afghan women’s rights defenders and civilian activists protest against the Taliban’s call to protect their achievements and education, in front of the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 3, 2021.
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NS new american aid, which will bypass the Taliban and be distributed directly to Afghans, bringing the total US aid to the Afghan people to $330 million this fiscal year.

The United Nations is appealing for $606 million for food, health care, shelter and other vital needs to help 11 million people for the remainder of this year.

This year’s UN General Assembly officially opens on Tuesday, and whether the Taliban leadership will represent Afghanistan at this year’s international gathering remains to be seen.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, said it is “somewhat absurd to demand the Taliban now abide by their commitments and expect a different outcome.” He asked other countries not to recognize the Taliban bilaterally.

“We now know that the Taliban had no intention of following the political path,” Menendez said. “He had no intention of severing ties with al-Qaeda. And it clearly had no intention of giving women their rightful seat at the table and allowing them to participate fully in society.”

“Any country that offered support to the Taliban in its recent attack should risk a strategic deterioration in its relationship with the United States,” said Republican Idaho Senator James Risk, who heads the Senate panel.

“It is difficult to see the UN lifting any of these travel restrictions, if the Taliban government violates its commitments on terrorism, freedom of travel and respect for human rights,” Blinken said. Additional restrictions may well be imposed”. .

The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on 30 August setting out the international community’s expectations of a Taliban government.

A group of Republican lawmakers, in signed letteralso asked US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield to maintain sanctions such as a travel ban, arms embargo and asset freeze to avoid legitimizing the Taliban.

In testimony Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Blinken said he had not spoken personally to members of the Taliban leadership. On Tuesday, he said the legitimacy and support the Taliban needed from the international community would depend on their conduct.

During the interrogation, the chief US diplomat also strongly defended the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years.

“In contrast, there is nothing that can prevent strategic competitors like China and Russia – or adversaries like Iran and North Korea – from restarting a 20-year war for the United States and being stuck in Afghanistan for another decade. Would have liked more,” the state secretary said on Tuesday.

FILE – US soldier holds the “Get Closed” sign as hundreds of people gather near an evacuation post on the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 26, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Taliban insurgents took over the country in mid-August as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled to exile in the United Arab Emirates. The United States evacuated 124,000 people – most of them Afghans, and including more than 6,000 Americans – from Kabul airport, most of them during a chaotic retreat in the last two weeks of August, leaving behind about 100 Americans.

Some Americans have since been able to leave the country through an underground exit or by a handful of flights with the Taliban’s approval. But Blinken said that as of the end of last week, there are still about 100 Americans left. He also referred to journalists who were left in Afghanistan after the chaotic evacuation.

Republican Representative Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it was a “disgrace” that the US government would remove the US Agency for Global Media Journalists from Afghanistan before the country officially ended military operations in the country on August 31. had failed.

USAGM is the government-funded agency that oversees Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, among which an estimated 550 Afghan workers and their families are still in the country.

Under questioning Tuesday, Blinken answered “yes” when Senator Chris Koons asked whether firing USAGM employees was a US priority. He also confirmed that the State Department is committed to removing employees of other US-funded organizations and “our allies” from the American University in Afghanistan. He did not provide any further details.

Opposition Republican lawmakers and some Democratic allies of Biden have criticized the president’s approach to the return of soldiers, American citizens and thousands of Afghans who served as interpreters and advisers to the US military during the war.

Biden’s return was particularly criticized after 13 US service members were killed in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport days after the exit. Islamic State-Khorasan, an Afghan branch of the terrorist group operating in the Middle East, claimed responsibility.

A national poll of US voters shows widespread support for Biden’s decision to end the “forever war” in Afghanistan, but not for the way it returned.

Granthshala’s Wayne Lee and Ken Bredemeyer contributed to this report.

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