Blinken in Kuwait to talk ties and resettling Afghan allies

Hosted by Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Sabeh, US Secretary of State also spoke about the future of Iranian nuclear deal

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al Sabeh and other high-ranking officials in Kuwait to discuss bilateral relations and the future of Afghans who have supported US operations in their country over the past 20 years.

The US said it will resettle thousands of those who helped the military and could suffer Taliban reprisals after its troops withdraw from Afghanistan and the insurgents take control of more territory.

Mr Blinken did not announce any deals or disclose critical details about the process, during his visit on Thursday.

Sheikh Nawaf and Mr Blinken discussed ties and the Kuwaiti leader hailed the 60-year relationship between the two nations.

Mr Blinken conveyed a message from US President Joe Biden. He also met Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid and Parliament Speaker Marzouq Al Ghanim, who led a tour of the legislature.

As US troops complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration has come under heavy pressure to quickly relocate Afghan interpreters, drivers and other workers who find themselves at risk of Taliban retribution.

“The United States is committed to helping those who helped us during our time in Afghanistan over the last 20 years,” Mr Blinken said at a joint press conference with his Kuwaiti hosts.

"We’ve had very brave Afghans who have stood with us, with our soldiers, with our diplomats, mostly as translators, and interpreters, and as a result of that service, benefit from the possibility of securing a visa to come live in the United States," he said.

"We’re actively engaged in that process and notably in relocation planning for those brave Afghans and their families. That is a subject that came up today as it’s come up in conversations with a number of other allies and partners.”

Resettlement planning, which could affect tens of thousands of Afghans, comes as the Taliban gain more ground throughout Afghanistan, seizing large areas of the countryside and fuelling fears of a violent future. Civilian casualties surged in the first half of the year, a UN report said.

Afghan allies have complained of a bureaucratic maze as they try to obtain the special immigrant visas offered to foreign nationals deemed to be in need of protection because of their co-operation with the US government.

Mr Blinken also said that the continuing negotiating process with Iran to revive a 2015 nuclear deal could not go on forever after the Iranian leader criticised the US this week for stalling the process.

"We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely," Mr Blinken said.

"We have clearly demonstrated our good faith and desire to return to mutual compliance with the nuclear agreement ... The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they're prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance."

His comments came as indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to revive the nuclear pact, from which president Donald Trump withdrew the US in 2018, adjourned on June 20, two days after hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of Iran.

Updated: July 29, 2021, 7:51 PM