U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on his first trip to Brussels, has vowed to rebuild and strengthen NATO and consult with allies on the way forward in Afghanistan.
Blinken is attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on March 23-24 and is also scheduled to hold talks with European Union leaders as part of U.S. President Joe Biden's efforts to repair transatlantic ties.
"The United States wants to rebuild our partnerships, first and foremost with our NATO allies, we want to revitalize the alliance," Blinken told reporters as he met NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
"I've come here to express the United States' steadfast commitment (to NATO)," Blinken said, adding that the transatlantic alliance was at a pivotal moment in its existence.
Among the topics on the agenda of the NATO meeting are concerns over China and Russia, as well as the future of the Western alliance’s 9,600-strong mission in Afghanistan after the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump last year struck a deal with the Taliban to withdraw troops by May 1.
Asked about any possible withdrawal from Afghanistan, Blinken said a U.S. review of options was still under way and he would listen and consult with allies.
"We went in together, we have adjusted together, and when the time is right we will leave together," Blinken said of NATO's Afghan mission.
Biden has said the May 1 deadline would be “tough” for Washington to meet as peace talks between the militant group and Afghan government, launched in Qatar in September 2020, struggle to advance.
NATO foreign ministers “will continue consultations on the situation in Afghanistan and our military presence to assess our next steps together,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference on March 22, adding that "all options remain open" but there are "no easy choices."
NATO allies have said they were willing to stay in Afghanistan to continue training and advising Afghan security forces if Washington decides to remain, as well.
There are currently some 2,500 U.S. troops deployed in the war-torn country.
The relationship with Russia will also be a topic during Blinken's trip to Europe.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, returned to Moscow on March 21 after being recalled for emergency consultations amid rising tensions with Washington following Biden's comments that he believed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was a killer.
Blinken's trip is another illustration of a foreign policy reset under Biden that stresses diplomacy and backing for long-standing relationships after former President Donald Trump pursued an "America first" policy that tended to treat traditional allies more as rivals than partners.