* Blinken to visit Qatar and Germany for Afghan crisis talks

Qatar is working to facilitate the opening of humanitarian corridors to get aid into Afghanistan, a Qatari foreign ministry official said on Friday.

Qatar was engaging with the Taliban to ensure a peaceful transition of power to an inclusive and effective government, special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani said in a statement. 
Al-Qahtani arrived in Kabul on Friday to hold talks on forming an inclusive Afghan government and reopening of the Kabul airport, said a Qatari source familiar with the visit. 
Qatar has emerged as a key interlocutor with the Taliban, having hosted the group’s political office since 2013.  The Taliban negotiated the US military withdrawal and separate talks with the Afghan government in Qatar.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday he will travel next week to Qatar and Germany for talks on the Afghanistan crisis. 
Bilnken will spend Monday and Tuesday in Qatar, the largest hub for evacuations of some 100,000 Afghans in the final days of the 20-year US military mission.
He will then head to the US air base of Ramstein in Germany, which has become a temporary home for thousands of Afghan allies of the United States flown out after the US-backed government collapsed.
He said he will meet with German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass and then hold a 20-nation virtual ministerial meeting on the crisis. 
The countries “all have a stake in helping to relocate and resettle Afghans and in holding the Taliban to their commitments,” Blinken told reporters. 
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait next week, the Pentagon said on Friday, in a “thank you” tour for allies and troops that helped in the massive US-led airlift from Afghanistan after the Taliban take over.
Austin planned to leave on Sunday and meet with regional official as well as US service members and other government staff.
“Throughout his trip, Secretary Austin will meet with regional partners and thank them for their co-operation with the United States as we evacuated Americans, Afghans and citizens from other nations from Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement.

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