A well-informed friend emails:
This is just truly surreal: "..warned that the Taliban remain linked to al-Qaeda...." My Allah in Heaven, they are more linked today than they were in 2001. They are more linked to Pakistan's militants than they were in 2001. Pace Jeffrey Goldberg's odd ruminations (al-Qaeda always saw itself as being a non-Arab movement -- in its first and seminal publication, the Encyclopedia of the Afghan Jihad, al-Qaeda only thanks one people and government by name: Pakistan's), al-Qaeda's greatest missionary success so far has been amongst the Pashtuns, not the Saudis, the Yemenis, Iraqis, or the Jordanians (though they'd done okay among the Arabs, at least until the Iraq War).
I definitely learned in the Bush administration to never, ever, assume that folks really don't believe the stupid things they say, that their arguments are only cover for something deeper (e.g., cowardice, fear of the unknown, an irrational fondness for military transformation). Tony Blinken must really believe this non-sense. In any case, it's just surreal. In its intellectual and historical obtuseness, this is far greater than an allegiance to Rumsfeld's "light foot-print".