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China, Afghanistan Top Blinken Agenda  07/24 06:14

   Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to India and Kuwait next week 
for talks on China, the coronavirus and Afghanistan, the State Department said 
Friday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to India 
and Kuwait next week for talks on China, the coronavirus and Afghanistan, the 
State Department said Friday.

   The trip comes as the Biden administration seeks to shore up U.S. leadership 
in vaccinating the world against COVID-19, tries to blunt increasing Chinese 
assertiveness, and moves to evacuate vulnerable people from Afghanistan before 
the U.S. military withdrawal is complete.

   The State Department said Blinken will meet with Indian Prime Minister 
Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday before traveling to Kuwait City the 
next day.

   India is a key part of U.S. efforts to counter China's growing influence in 
the Indo-Pacific region and elsewhere. State Department spokesman Ned Price 
said the agenda in Delhi would include "COVID-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific 
engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and 
addressing the climate crisis."

   Blinken will be seeking India's support in stabilizing Afghanistan after the 
U.S. military withdrawal is completed at the end of August, according to Dean 
Thompson, the top U.S. diplomat for South and Central Asia.

   "We expect that all the countries in the region have a shared interest in a 
stable and secure Afghanistan going forward and so, we will certainly be 
looking at talking with our Indian partners about how we can work together to 
realize that goal," he told reporters.

   Blinken also will be looking to set up a meeting of the leaders of the 
so-called Quad -- a group that includes Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. 
President Joe Biden hosted a virtual Quad summit earlier this year focused on 
the coronavirus pandemic and threats posed by China but is hoping to arrange an 
in-person meeting by the end of the year.

   Meanwhile, Kuwait, along with Qatar, is one of several countries being eyed 
as possible hosts for thousands of Afghans who worked for the United States and 
want to be relocated to the U.S. before the complete withdrawal of American 
troops.

   The Biden administration hopes to evacuate about 4,000 Afghans who served as 
translators and in other support roles for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and their 
families to American military bases in third countries while their visas are 
processed.

   That's on top of roughly 2,500 Afghans who have already completed security 
vetting and will be housed at the Fort Lee Army base in Virginia pending final 
approval of their visas starting next week.

 
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