U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Qatar on a trip that will also take him to Germany for talks with important U.S. allies on the situation in Afghanistan. “Departing for Doha, Qatar and Ramstein, Germany where I’ll have the opportunity to thank our Qatari and German friends in-person for the outstanding support they’ve given to safely transit U.S. citizens, Afghans, and other evacuees from Afghanistan,” Blinken tweeted late Sunday. Qatar was a key hub for the massive U.S. airlift out of Kabul and a first point of landing for thousands of Afghan refugees following last month’s Taliban takeover. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is also visiting U.S. allies in the Middle East to thank them for their help in the evacuations from Afghanistan, and with U.S. troops. His stops include Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. “I’m on my way to the Gulf to personally thank our partners there for supporting the Afghanistan evacuation effort. Operation ALLIED REFUGE would not have been possible with our friends in the Gulf. Their support saved lives,” Austin tweeted Sunday.U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives to board an aircraft from Joint Base Andrews, Md., on Sept. 5, 2021, to travel to Doha, Qatar and Ramstein, Germany.Blinken told reporters Friday that while in Germany he will head to Ramstein U.S. Air Force Base to thank the U.S. troops and meet with Afghan refugees.    Blinken also said he will head a virtual 20-nation ministerial meeting on Afghanistan Wednesday alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He said the 20 countries “all have a stake in helping to relocate and resettle Afghans and in holding the Taliban to their commitments.” The Taliban have promised to grant safe passage to those Afghans and others who want to leave the country, but many Afghans doubt the reliability of their pledges.  In his remarks Friday, Blinken again defended the U.S. departure from Afghanistan, saying a relatively small number of American citizens remain in the country and the State Department is in active contact with all of them.  He said the U.S. remains committed to helping any American who wants to leave and to helping Special Immigrant Visa candidates and other Afghans who have helped the United States.    The Biden administration has come under criticism from Republican lawmakers, human rights groups and others for its handling of the evacuation from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control in Kabul on August 15. 

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