Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the US seeks ‘serious and sustained diplomacy’ with North Korea

Antony Blinken speaks at a podium in front of a US flag and ASEAN flag
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks on the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy at the Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta on December 14, 2021.

  • Antony Blinken said the US seeks “serious and sustained diplomacy” with North Korea.
  • The Secretary of State’s comments come just days after the US announced sanctions on North Korea.
  • Blinken said dealing with North Korea would help keep the peace in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US seeks “serious and sustained diplomacy” with North Korea, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, just days after President Joe Biden announced sanctions on the autocratic state over human rights.

But the US still has the “ultimate goal” of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, Blinken added as he spoke to regional leaders at the Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday.

He highlighted North Korea’s nuclear weapon capabilities as he discussed how the US wants to boost security in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We’ll work with allies and partners to address the threat posed by the DPRK’s nuclear programs through a calibrated, practical approach while also strengthening our extended deterrence,” he said.

He recalled a November meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping when Biden advocated that China and the US should make sure their competition “does not veer into conflict.”

“We take that responsibility with the greatest seriousness. Because the failure to do so would be catastrophic for all of us,” Blinken said.

He also said the US has helped to “keep the peace” in the Indo-Pacific region for decades, and that the US was  “reinforcing” its “strength” so it could continue to do so.

“We don’t want conflict in the Indo-Pacific,” Blinken said.

“Threats are evolving. Our security approach has to evolve with it,” he continued. “We’ll seek closer civilian security cooperation, tackle challenges ranging from violent extremism to illegal fishing to human trafficking.”

In May, Blinken said the US was open to engaging diplomatically with North Korea, and that it was up to Kim Jong Un’s regime to decide if it wanted to respond.

“I hope that North Korea will take the opportunity to engage diplomatically, and to see if there are ways to move forward toward the objective of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Blinken said at the time. 

Since then, both the US and North Korea have blamed each other for creating “instability” in the Korean peninsula, with Blinken raising concerns over missile tests by North Korea and Kim accusing the US of being the “root cause” of tensions in the region.

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Russia’s top diplomat accuses the US and NATO of risking a ‘nightmare scenario of military confrontation’ amid tensions over Ukraine

Antony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting in Stockholm, Sweden on December 2, 2021.

  • Sergey Lavrov accused the US of risking a “nightmare scenario” in Europe. 
  • The top Russian diplomat said NATO was “irresponsibly” expanding its military infrastucture toward Rusisa.
  • Meanwhile, NATO has expressed concerns Russia is on the verge of invading Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday accused the US and NATO of risking a “nightmare scenario of military confrontation” in Europe, warning the alliance against expanding military infrastructure in Ukraine.

“The alliance’s military infrastructure is being irresponsibly brought closer to Russia’s borders in Romania and Poland, deploying an anti-missile defence system that can be used as a strike complex,” Lavrov said in remarks at a conference of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), per BBC News.

The top Russian diplomat’s comments came amid fears that Moscow is planning an invasion of Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Russian troops have gathered along Ukraine’s border.

Since Russia’s unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ukraine has emerged as a major geopolitical dividing line between the West and Russia. That same year, a war began between Kremlin-backed rebels and Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbass region. The conflict, which Russia claims it’s not involved in, has killed over 13,000 people. 

Ukraine is not a full NATO member, but has sought to join the alliance for years and maintains a robust partnership with it. Members of the security alliance have given military aid to Ukraine, and NATO and Ukrainian troops have participated in joint exercises.

Russian President Vladimir Putin views the alliance’s growing influence in the former Soviet republic as an existential threat. Putin has expressed particular dismay over NATO and US military activities in the Black Sea region. 

“The threat on our western borders is, indeed, rising, as we have said multiple times,” Putin said at a ceremony for ambassadors at the Kremlin on Wednesday, The New York Times reported. “In our dialogue with the US and its allies, we will insist on developing concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of NATO and the placement there of weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory.”

Putin said Russia needed “legal guarantees” that Moscow’s security concerns in the region will be respected.

“We need legal guarantees,” Putin said. “Russia’s legal concerns in the security sphere were ignored, and they now continue to be ignored.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past military personnel during a ceremonial event.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at a ceremonial event.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has said that 90,000 Russian troops have amassed along its border. Russia denies any plans to invade, but the West is not taking Putin’s word for it. 

“There is a major risk of Russian military activity in Ukraine in the next few months. All the signs point to a major build up of military capability,” Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, told Insider last week.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday warned Russia that if it invades Ukraine there will be a “high price.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also told Russia that any military incursion into Ukraine could trigger “serious consequences.”

Blinken, who met with other NATO foreign ministers in Latvia this week to discuss the Russia threat, had a meeting with Lavrov at the OSCE conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on Thursday.

The top US diplomat reiterated to Lavrov that the “US and our allies are prepared to impose significant costs” if Moscow chooses the “path of military escalation,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a readout of the meeting. Blinken “underscored that the best path forward is diplomacy,” Price added. 

After meeting with his Russian counterpart, Blinken said that President Joe Biden and Putin “may have the opportunity to speak directly in the near future.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who recently said he’d uncovered an imminent coup plot involving Russians, has called for direct talks between Moscow and Kiev to end the Donbass conflict. “We must tell the truth that we will not be able to stop the war without direct talks with Russia,” Zelensky said in a Wednesday address to Ukraine’s parliament.

“The war in Donbass has been going on for eight years. Eight years since Russia annexed Crimea,” Zelensky said. “And I’m not afraid to tell everyone about it and speak directly to the Russians. That’s why, at the same time, I’m not afraid to talk to them directly. We are not afraid of direct dialogue.” 

The Minsk agreements, which aimed to end the Donbass war, have never been fully enforced and fighting in the region has continued.

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Blinken warns Russia that ‘renewed aggression’ toward Ukraine ‘can trigger serious consequences’

Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

  • Blinken on Tuesday warned Russia against taking aggressive actions toward Ukraine. 
  • “Any renewed aggression can trigger serious consequences,” Blinken said. 
  • Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday issued a stark warning to Moscow over its actions toward Ukraine, amid concerns that Russia could be gearing up for an invasion in the near future. 

“Let me just reiterate that any escalatory actions by Russia would be of great concern to the United States … and any renewed aggression can trigger serious consequences,” Blinken said during a joint press conference with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs in Riga, per CNN.

The top US diplomat expressed consternation over Russia’s “increasingly belligerent rhetoric, it’s recent buildup of forces” and its “unusual troop movements along Ukraine’s border.”

Blinken was in Riga to meet with NATO foreign ministers to discuss the concerns regarding Russia’s military activities along Ukraine’s border, and said he’d have more to say on Moscow’s behavior on Wednesday following the meetings. 

Russian aggression toward Ukraine has been at the heart of tensions between Moscow and the West in recent years. Ukraine is widely viewed as a geopolitical dividing line, much like the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. 

In 2014, Russian forces entered Crimea and it was unilaterally annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since that year, Ukrainian troops have been fighting a war against Kremlin-backed rebels in the eastern Donbass region. The conflict has claimed over 13,000 lives. Russia denies any involvement in the Ukraine war. 

Russia aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over a mockup of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov while at a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, January 9, 2020.

The recent buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border has raised grave concerns that the Kremlin is preparing for a military incursion. This is not the first time this year that Russia has sparked anxiety about a potential invasion of Ukraine. Back in the spring, the Russian military also gathered a sizable force near the border of the former Soviet republic.

Russia has blamed NATO and the West for the rising tensions over Ukraine.

Putin recently accused the West of not respecting his “red lines” when it comes to Russia’s nextdoor neighbor. For years, Ukraine has sought to become a NATO member — a move that would be unacceptable in the Kremlin’s eyes. Russia views NATO’s increasing influence in Ukraine as a major security threat. NATO was originally founded to counter the Soviet Union, and Putin — a former KGB operative — routinely bashes the alliance. 

Fiona Hill, who served as the top Russia advisor on the National Security Council under the Trump administration, recently told Insider that Putin views Ukraine as “unfinished business” and is “deadly serious” about neutralizing it “one way or another.”

Similarly, Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, told Insider, “There is a major risk of Russian military activity in Ukraine in the next few months. All the signs point to a major build up of military capability.”

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State Department issues first ‘X gender’ passport for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming people

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department on October 18, 2021.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department on October 18, 2021.

  • The State Department announced that it had issued the first passport with an ‘X’ in the gender field.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken first announced the change in policy in June of this year.
  • Blinken said then that it was a step “toward ensuring the fair treatment of LGBTQI+ U.S. citizens.”

The State Department announced on Wednesday that it had issued the first ‘X gender’ US passport ever, a move that the department says is a step toward inclusion for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming people.

“We look forward to offering this option to all routine passport applicants once we complete the required system and form updates in early 2022,” said spokesman Ned Price. “The Department also continues to work closely with other U.S. government agencies to ensure as smooth a travel experience as possible for all passport holders, regardless of their gender identity.”

The milestone comes following a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June that announced the new policy, which also included allowing individuals to self-select “M” or “F” on passports without the need for medical certification.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department will be taking further steps toward ensuring the fair treatment of LGBTQI+ U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender or sex, by beginning the process of updating our procedures for the issuance of U.S. Passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA),” Blinken said at the time. “The Department has begun moving towards adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons applying for a passport or CRBA.”

Blinken also noted the process was “technologically complex” and said it would take time before it was fully implemented.

Several other countries around the world, including Canada, Australia, Argentina, the Netherlands, and New Zealand also offer ‘X gender’ passports for nonbinary, intersex and gender non-conforming people.

And several other US states have either created or considered using ‘X’ on official documents to accommodate those that don’t identify as male or female.

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Sponsor a refugee: US asks public to personally support resettlement of Afghan families

US soldier holds an Afghan child in front of refugee tents.
Airman first class Luis Miranda of the United States Air Force greets children among evacuees from Afghanistan living in temporary accommodation at Ramstein Air Base on September 20, 2021 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany.

  • Nearly half of Afghans living on US military bases are children.
  • US law prevents many from receiving the same benefits as refugees.
  • The new program aims to cover their expenses for the first 90 days.

Many of the 53,000 people evacuated in the hasty US exodus from Afghanistan are legally barred from receiving the full suite of assistance available to those who came to the country as formal refugees. So now the State Department is asking Americans to step up.

In a statement on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the launch of a new initiative, the Sponsor Circle Program, that asks citizens to help ease the transition of Afghans – with money, housing, and jobs.

“The program will enable groups of individuals to form sponsor circles to provide initial resettlement assistance to Afghans as they arrive and build new lives in local communities across the country,” Blinken said.

The way it works: Five or more adults sign up to form a support group for an Afghan family, helping them get out of one of the US military bases where many currently reside after having undergone extensive background checks. This “sponsor circle” is then asked to come up with $2,275 for each resettled person; its members also agree to help provide food and shelter, as well as assistance navigating US bureaucracy and finding steady employment.

Nearly half of Afghans living on US military bases are children, The Wall Street Journal reported this month.

The International Refugee Assistance Project, which has been critical of the Biden administration’s approach to resettlement, welcomed the announcement.

“Veterans, faith groups, and Americans all around the country are ready and eager to welcome Afghans into their communities, and sponsor circles are a new tool to support Afghans as they rebuild their lives in the United States,” Elizabeth Foydel, the group’s sponsorship program director, said in a statement.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Blinken and Austin wanted Biden to keep US troops in Afghanistan longer, but he overruled them: book

President Joe Biden and his advisors in a Cabinet meeting.
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with his Cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

  • Biden overruled calls from two Cabinet officials to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan, according to a new book.
  • The secretary of state and defense secretary thought prolonging the withdrawal could give the US leverage in negotiations.
  • The Biden administration has faced bipartisan criticism over its handling of the withdrawal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden overruled calls from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan, according to a new book obtained by CNN.

Austin believed that carrying out the withdrawal in three or four stages would help give the US an advantage in diplomatic negotiations, according to the book, “Peril,” by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

Meanwhile, after meeting with NATO ministers in March, Blinken had a change of heart on withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan.

“Previously, [Blinken] had been foursquare with Biden for a full withdrawal,” Costa and Woodward wrote, per CNN. “His new recommendation was to extend the mission with US troops for a while to see if it could yield a political settlement. Buy time for negotiations.” Other NATO members supported this approach.

But Biden was adamant when it came to fully withdrawing.

“Our mission is to stop Afghanistan from being a base for attacking the homeland and US allies by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, not to deliver a death blow to the Taliban,” Biden said during one of over two dozen National Security Council meetings on the matter, per the book.

The Pentagon, State Department, and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider.

The US completed the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan at the end of August. The pullout coincided with the Taliban regaining control of the country, as well as a deadly ISIS-K attack outside of the Kabul airport that killed 13 US service members and 169 Afghans.

The Biden administration has fervently defended the withdraw in the face of bipartisan criticism.

Though the new book suggests Blinken was urged by other NATO members to prolong the US troop presence in Afghanistan, the top US diplomat this week told congressional lawmakers that NATO allies “immediately and unanimously embraced” Biden’s plan for the withdrawal when he announced it in April.

Fellow NATO members like the UK have been heavily critical of the withdrawal, despite Blinken’s assertions in testimony to Congress.

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Democratic senator says Afghanistan failure is ‘tainting America’s reputation around the world’

Blumenthal
Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal said America’s failure in Afghanistan is ruining its global reputation.
  • He zeroed in on the fact Americans and Afghan allies were left behind after the last US troops departed.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there’s about 100 Americans still in Afghanistan who want to leave.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut on Tuesday told reporters that the US government’s failure to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan is hurting the country’s reputation.

“I feel very passionately that we are tainting America’s reputation around the world but more importantly abandoning essential honor and moral imperative by failing to do more to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies who put their lives on the line,” Blumental said.

The Connecticut Democrat told CNN’s Manu Raju he’s “deeply disappointed that our State Department has failed to put more pressure on the Taliban” over the evacuations.

“My feeling is there has to be accountability,” the senator added. “The time will come when we will finish an analysis and there will be accountability and we should hold responsible officials who failed to honor our promises.”

Blumenthal’s comments came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was being grilled by senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Biden administration has faced bipartisan criticism over its handling of the pullout, particularly over the fact that a few hundred Americans and thousands of Afghan allies were left behind. The US pulled out the last troops from Afghanistan in late August.

Blinken on Monday told House lawmakers “as of the end of last week, we had about 100 American citizens in Afghanistan who told us that they wish to leave the country.”

At least some foreign nationals, including Americans, have been able to leave Afghanistan in the past week.

During the congressional hearings on Afghanistan, Blinken has offered a full-throated defense of the withdrawal and the administration’s approach to it. But he’s faced fierce pushback from lawmakers in the process – including Democrats.

“Mr. Secretary, the execution of the U.S. withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed,” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday.

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan coincided with the Taliban’s takeover of the country. In the final days of the evacuation, a terror attack linked to ISIS-K near the Kabul airport killed 13 US service members and 169 Afghans.

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WATCH: A House hearing devolved into chaos when a GOP congressman shouted over everyone and falsely accused Biden of manipulating Afghanistan intelligence

GOP Rep. Thomas Mast
GOP Rep. Brian Mast.

  • A House hearing spiraled out of control when a GOP congressman asked misleading questions.
  • He refused to let Secretary of State Antony Blinken respond and repeatedly shouted over others.
  • “I do not wish to hear from you,” GOP Rep. Brian Mast said even after his time was up.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A House of Representatives hearing on Monday about the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan spiraled into chaos when a Republican congressman used his time to spread misleading information and shout over others even after he was told his speaking time was up.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held the hearing, at which US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified about the timeframe surrounding the US’s withdrawal of troops and the collapse of the Afghan government.

When Florida Rep. Brian Mast was up, he opened his questioning by referencing reporting about a phone call between President Joe Biden and then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. In the July 23 phone call, according to Reuters, Biden said Afghanistan had a “perception” problem indicating “that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban.”

“And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture,” Biden said, according to Reuters.

Mast, a US veteran who lost both his legs in Afghanistan after a 2010 bomb blast, referenced those comments on Monday and falsely suggested that they indicated that “Biden worked with the coward exiled president of Afghanistan to manipulate the intelligence about the Taliban.”

Blinken pushed back on that characterization, saying, “What the president said to then-President Ghani in private is exactly what he said in public: that the issue was not whether Afghanistan had the capacity to withstand the Taliban, it’s whether it had the will and the plan to do so -“

Mast interrupted him, saying, “So you’re saying the transcript was a lie, that it’s false, it’s incorrect … he did not work to tamp down the intelligence on the Taliban?”

“Absolutely not,” Blinken said.

“So, the transcript is incorrect?” Mast pressed. “That’s your testimony today?”

Blinken responded that Congress was already aware of what the intelligence said and its implications, but Mast continued to say that “everybody looking for an explanation about what happened and how everybody got it so wrong, how your administration got it so wrong needs to look at that as the most likely explanation: asking the [Afghan] president to manipulate the intelligence of what was actually going on with the Taliban.”

The Florida Republican then displayed the photos of the 13 US servicemembers who died on August 26 after an Islamic State militant detonated a bomb at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, killing more than 200 people.

The House hearing devolved into chaos shortly after, as Mast said, “I do not believe whatsoever what you’re saying about the administration not working to manipulate that intelligence.”

“Simply put, congressman, what you’ve said is dead wrong,” Blinken said as he started responding, but Mast cut him off. “I do not wish to hear from you. I’m not yielding you a moment of time. I don’t wish to hear your lies.”

As Mast continued speaking over Blinken, HFAC chairman, Rep. Gregory Meeks, stepped in to say that Mast’s time had expired, but Mast kept going.

“So has the secretary’s,” Mast said, but Meeks shot back, “The secretary can answer the question.”

“I didn’t ask him a question,” Mast said.

“Yes, you did ask him a question,” Meeks said.

“I don’t want to hear from the secretary,” Mast said, but Meeks spoke over him and repeated that his time had expired.

“He lies to us when he steps in front of the camera, that’s what he does,” Mast said as Meeks banged his gavel to restore order.

“People need to use common sense, Mr. Secretary,” Mast said, before Meeks again cut him off. “The gentleman’s time has expired,” Meeks said. “We’re here to hear from the secretary.”

“Not to hear lies,” Mast said.

Blinken at last had a chance to respond when Meeks yielded time to him over Mast’s continued objections.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman,” the secretary of state said. “Just to respond briefly: what the congressman said is simply wrong. Period. Second, I think virtually every member of this committee has had access to or been apprised of the intelligence assessments throughout the year, and you know what they were, you know what they are. And we will continue to provide those assessments and those briefings in the months ahead.

“You’ve heard the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff say that he has not seen anything that indicated to him or to anyone else that the Afghan government and military would collapse in 11 days,” Blinken added. “The director of national intelligence has said that even in the days leading up to the Taliban takeover, the intelligence agencies did not say collapse was imminent. This unfolded more quickly than we anticipated, including in the intelligence community. And I could go on. So what has been said and alleged is simply not true.”

Despite Blinken’s response and Meeks’ repeated reminders that his time was up, Mast again jumped in after Blinken’s comments, saying without evidence that it “adds up” that the Biden administration manipulated intelligence surrounding the Afghanistan withdrawal.

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Biden plans to evacuate all US diplomatic staff from Afghanistan by withdrawal deadline: report

US embassy Kabul
A US Chinook military helicopter flies above the US embassy in Kabul.

  • Biden is planning to evacuate diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by Aug. 31, per The Washington Post.
  • Without any plans set in place, the US diplomatic presence in Kabul will go dark for some time.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken tamped down the likelihood of an on-the-ground presence in Kabul.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden is planning to evacuate all diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline with no concrete plans on whether or not they will return to the country, according to The Washington Post.

The Taliban has signaled some interest in the US keeping a diplomatic outpost in Kabul, but the Biden administration has not yet concluded on what their potential presence in the country might resemble.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Friday said that the Biden administration is “actively discussing” the Taliban’s request with allies. But he said that the US has not spoken with the Taliban about a vision for a future US diplomatic presence, according to a US official who spoke to The Washington Post.

Without any plans set in place, it is all but assured that the US diplomatic presence in Kabul will go dark for some time, which would make it more difficult for the Biden administration as they have sought to continue aiding Americans and Afghans who hope to leave the country after Aug. 31. The withdrawal comes two decades after US-led troops ousted the Taliban in the “War on Terror.” The group made a lightning-quick advance to regain control of the country this month.

In crafting plans for a potential diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, the Biden administration must also determine whether they will formally acknowledge a Taliban government, according to The Post report.

When asked how the US can help individuals who will remain in Afghanistan after Aug. 31, the US said it was working on the logistics.

“We’re developing detailed plans for how we can continue to provide consular support and facilitate departures for those who wish to leave after August 31,” a senior State Department official said.

Read more: How Americans who helped prosecute the Taliban are going down a ‘black hole’ to help their Afghan interpreters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press” was not optimistic about a future on-the-ground diplomatic presence in the country, saying “that’s not likely to happen.”

“What is going to happen is that our commitment to continue to help people leave Afghanistan who want to leave and who are not out by September 1st, that endures,” he said. “There’s no deadline on that effort. And we have ways, we have mechanisms to help facilitate the ongoing departure of people from Afghanistan if they choose to leave.”

There are roughly 350 Americans remaining in Afghanistan who want to leave the country, a State Department spokesperson told The Post. Several of the individuals may have already found a way to leave Kabul, the spokesperson added.

The State Department also conversed with 280 additional individuals who claimed to be American citizens in Afghanistan but had either not yet relayed their plans or informed officials that they wanted to stay in the country.

US passport holders who want to depart Kabul can get into the airport, despite the rush in evacuations before the looming withdrawal date, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Saturday.

Army Maj. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor reported that in a 24-hour period between Friday and Saturday, 6,800 individuals were flown out of Kabul – with 4,000 of the evacuees on US military planes.

Roughly 117,000 individuals have been flown out of Afghanistan since the evacuation undertaking began on Aug. 14, Taylor said.

As Afghanistan prepares for a full US troop withdrawal, many residents of fearful of the impending Taliban rule.

A terrorist attack at the Kabul airport that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members last week only served to magnify the level of danger that has permeated much of Kabul. The suicide bombing was carried out by ISIS-K, the regional affiliate of the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

The US on Friday retaliated to the airport attack with a drone strike that killed two high-profile Islamic State militants, according to the Pentagon.

Biden on Saturday reiterated that “this strike was not the last” and warned that another terrorist attack at the Kabul airport is “highly likely in the next 24 to 36 hours.”

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Biden will warn Putin the US will respond ‘forcefully’ if Russia continues its ‘reckless and aggressive actions,’ Blinken says

Biden Putin
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to meet in Geneva on June 16.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden will warn President Putin against further “aggressive actions.”
  • Biden is expected to meet with the Russian president for the first time Wednesday.
  • Their meeting follows a string of major cyberattacks in the US that are believed to have originated in Russia.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said President Joe Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin against committing future “reckless and aggressive actions” when he meets with him in Geneva later this week.

“This is not going to be a flip the light switch moment,” Blinken told CNN’s Dana Bash during an appearance Sunday on “State of the Union.” “What the president is going to make clear to President Putin is we seek a more stable, predictable relationship with Russia.”

He added: “But if Russia chooses to continue reckless and aggressive actions, we will respond forcefully as the president has already demonstrated that he would when it comes to election interference, or the Solar Winds cyber attack, or the attempt to murder Mr. Navalny with a chemical weapon.”

Aleksei Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, fell ill in August last year. In December, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Navalny had been poisoned using a substance with a “similar structural characteristics” to the Novichok family of highly potent nerve agents, according to The New York Times.

Navalny was arrested in Moscow after he returned to Russia following treatment for the poisoning. As Insider previously reported, Navalny was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating parole. He was previously convicted of embezzlement in 2014, a conviction that leading human rights groups say was politically motivated.

Biden in an April executive order placed sanctions on Russia for its attempts to interfere in the 2020 US election and its role in the SolarWinds cyberattack last year.

The US has faced a number of major cyberattacks this year, including the attack on the gasoline provider Colonial Pipeline which caused gas shortages along the east coast in May. DarkSide, the ransomware group that hacked Colonial Pipeline, is believed to have ties to Russia.

Blinken on Sunday indicated a decisive answer on cooperation between Russian and the US wouldn’t come from the Wednesday meeting but said it was the start of determining whether the two nations can find common ground and work together on shared interests.

“This meeting is not happening in a vacuum,” Blinken said. “We’re coming off the G7, we’re coming off the NATO summit, we’ll be coming off an EU summit as well, and our leadership and our engagement is a very powerful force.”

Blinken said the US was in a “much stronger position” that it was just one year ago to work with allies to confront issues posed by adversaries like Russia and by China.

Biden will hold a press conference following his meeting with Putin, but the two world leaders will not appear at the conference together.

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