Top US national security officials will see how the failed war in Afghanistan may be reshaping the United States’ relationships in the Middle East as they meet with key allies in the Arabian Gulf and Europe this week.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are travelling to the Gulf separately, leaving on Sunday. They will talk with leaders who are central to US efforts to prevent a resurgence of threats from armed groups in Afghanistan, some of whom were partners in the 20-year fight against the Taliban.
Together, the Austin and Blinken trips are meant to reassure Gulf allies that President Joe Biden’s decision to end the US war in Afghanistan in order to focus more on other security challenges like China and Russia does not foretell an abandonment of US partners in the Middle East.
The US military has had a presence in the Gulf for decades, including the Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. Biden has not suggested ending that presence, but he – like the Trump administration before him – has called China the top security priority, along with strategic challenges from Russia.
“There’s nothing China or Russia would rather have, would want more, in this competition than the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan,” Biden said in the hours after the last US troops left.
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