KUWAIT CITY (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday the al-Qaida extremist group that used Afghanistan as a staging base to attack United States 20 years ago may attempt to regenerate there following an American withdrawal that has left the Taliban in power.

“That’s the nature of the organization,” he told a small group of reporters in Kuwait City at the conclusion of a four-day tour of Persian Gulf states. He said the United States is prepared to prevent an al-Qaida comeback in Afghanistan that would threaten the United States.

The Taliban had provided al-Qaida with sanctuary while it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The U.S. invaded and overthrew the Taliban after it refused to turn over al-Qaida leaders following the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States. During the course of the 20-year U.S. war, al-Qaida was vastly diminished, but questions have arisen about its future prospects with the Taliban back in Kabul.

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MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:

— Taliban name caretaker Cabinet that pays homage to old guard

— US-built databases a potential tool of Taliban repression

— Blinken and Austin to visit Gulf to address postwar stresses

— Taliban say they took Panjshir, last holdout Afghan province

— Over 24 hours in Kabul, brutality, trauma, moments of grace

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says Qatar’s foreign minister will arrive in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad to discuss the latest situation in Afghanistan.

In a statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Qatari chief diplomat Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani during his day-long visit Thursday will meet with Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other top officials.

It said Pakistan and Qatar enjoy close, cordial ties. “The two countries closely collaborate on regional and global issues of common interest,” the statement said.

The development comes two days after the Taliban announced an interim government for Afghanistan. The Taliban maintain a political office in Doha.

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The interior ministry of the new Taliban government is seeking to end protests in Afghanistan after days of demonstrations that have brought heavy-handed assaults on protesters.

The minister has issued an order to end all protests in the country — unless demonstrators get prior permission, including approval of slogans and banners.

It’s unlikely the women who have been leading near daily protest demanding their rights from the country’s hardline Islamic rulers will be allowed to protest under the new rules. In the words of the ministry’s statement: “It is announced to all citizens not to attempt at the present time to hold any demonstrations under any name whatsoever.”

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has taken to Twitter to say his flight from Kabul on Aug. 15 was done to save Afghanistan’s capital from bloodshed. He says his security personnel advised the secret departure, which opened the gates of the city to a Taliban takeover.

Ghani also denies widespread allegations of corruption as well as charges that he left the country with millions of dollars. He says there should be an independent investigation.

Ghani’s sudden departure has been widely criticized both in Afghanistan and abroad. Washington blamed Ghani’s flight and the government’s collapse for a Taliban takeover ahead of a negotiated deal.

Prominent Afghan political figures who stayed behind say they had expected to meet with Taliban political leaders the following day to continue negotiations.

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