Blinken Meets Afghan Girls Robotics Team, Vows to Press Taliban
(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken met members of Afghanistan’s all-girls robotics team during a visit to Qatar on Tuesday, and vowed that the U.S. would look to help Afghans who wish to remain in their country, while holding Taliban leaders to pledges to let people leave if they want.
“I know this has been an incredibly traumatic experience and moment for all of you,” Blinken told the robotics group, known as the Afghan Dreamers, after a day of meetings with officials in Doha. “We’re going to remain very focused to do everything we can not just to support you but to support all those in Afghanistan who need assistance.”
The group, which gained international renown as a symbol of a modernizing Afghanistan, fled the country late last month as the Taliban took over. Some have ended up in Mexico, while a large portion is now in Qatar, which has played a key role in the U.S. effort to evacuate Afghans fleeing the Taliban. The tiny Gulf state has had about 58,000 Afghans pass through on their way to the U.S. and elsewhere.
Blinken’s two-night trip was meant in large part to thank Qatar for that effort and coordinate on what lies ahead: pressing the Taliban’s new government to be more “inclusive,” evacuating more of those who wish to leave and reopening the airport in Kabul -- a job that will involve Qatari experts and equipment.
The Qatar meeting came on the same day the Taliban announced a new cabinet that included the leader of a U.S.-designated terrorist group. Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told reporters, “We hope all countries in the world will recognize the legitimacy of our government and our Islamic regime.”
In the meeting with Blinken, Roya Mahboob, who founded the robotics team and leads the Digital Citizens Fund, pressed the top U.S. diplomat for help evacuating more people. She said there were still dozens of students, teachers, coaches and family members who hadn’t managed to escape.
“They’re all scared, they don’t know what’s going to happen with the future of Afghanistan,” Mahboob said. “There’s lots of uncertainty, so we would like to ask you, what’s your plan, what’s the U.S. government’s plan?”
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