UPDATE 1-Blinken says U.S. never intended to keep troops in Afghanistan permanently

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WASHINGTON, April 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said on a visit to Kabul that the time had come for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan and he warned the Taliban that any attack on them would be met with "a very forceful response."

Speaking at a televised news conference at the U.S. embassy, Blinken said that the United States never intended to maintain a permanent military presence in the country.

"If as our forces are withdrawing the Taliban were to attack them, it would be met with a very forceful response," he said, adding that U.S. support would continue to Afghan security forces battling the Islamist insurgents.

He said the United States will "intensify" its diplomacy on Afghanistan and do "everything we can" to advance efforts to secure a peace agreement between Kabul and the insurgents.

Washington also will continue its humanitarian support to Afghanistan and advocacy for the rights of women and girls, he said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Doina Chiacu Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Macfie)