Fifth, we will continue to focus on counter-terrorism. The Taliban are committed to preventing terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for outside operations that could threaten the United States or our allies, including Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s sworn enemy, ISIS-K. Here too, we will appeal to them about that commitment. But while we have expectations of the Taliban, that doesn’t mean we will rely on the Taliban. We will ourselves remain vigilant in monitoring threats and maintain strong counter-terrorism capabilities in the region to neutralize those threats if necessary, as we have demonstrated in recent days by attacking ISIS facilitators and looming threats in Afghanistan – and as we are doing in places around the world where we don’t have military forces on the ground.
Let me speak directly about our involvement with the Taliban on these and other issues. We have been in contact with the Taliban in recent weeks to facilitate our evacuation operations. Going forward, any involvement in a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only: our vital national interests. If we can work with the new Afghan government in a way that helps safeguard those interests, including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a US citizen held hostage in the region since early last year, and in a way that brings more stability to protect the country and the region and the achievements of the past two decades, we will do it.
But we will not do it on the basis of trust or belief. Every step we take will be based not on what the Taliban-led government says, but on what it does to fulfill its obligations. The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is every legitimacy and every support will have to be earned. The Taliban can do this by honoring their freedom of travel commitments and obligations, respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities, honoring their counter-terrorism commitments, not retaliating against those who choose to remain in Afghanistan, and form an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people.
Sixth, we will continue our humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan. The conflict has taken a terrible toll on the Afghan people. Millions are internally displaced. Millions are facing hunger, even starvation. The Covid-19 pandemic has also hit Afghanistan hard. The United States will continue to support humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. In line with our sanctions against the Taliban, aid will not flow through the government, but rather through independent organizations such as UN agencies and NGOs. And we expect those efforts will not be hindered by the Taliban or anyone else.
And seventh, we will continue our broad international diplomacy on all these issues and many others. We believe we can achieve much more and exert a much greater influence when we work together with our allies and partners. Over the past two weeks, we have had a series of intensive diplomatic engagements with allies and partners to plan and coordinate the future in Afghanistan. I met with the foreign ministers of NATO and the G7. I’ve talked one-on-one with dozens of my colleagues.
Last week, President Biden met with the leaders of the G7 countries, and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has convened every other day a group of 28 allies and partners from all regions of the world. Going forward, we will work closely with countries in the region and around the world, as well as leading organizations, NGOs and the private sector. Our allies and partners share our goals and are committed to working with us. I will have more to say on these matters in the coming days.
The main point that I want to drive home here today is that America’s work in Afghanistan continues. We have a plan for the future. We put it into action. This moment also calls for reflection. The war in Afghanistan was a twenty-year effort. We need to learn lessons and let those lessons shape how we think about fundamental questions of national security and foreign policy. We owe that to future diplomats, policy makers, military leaders, soldiers. We owe that to the American people.