Qatar is positioned to be the first contact point for regional and international players who want to engage the Taliban.
Qatar is working as an “impartial mediator” in dealings with the Taliban while aiding ongoing evacuations of foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans from the country, Qatar’s foreign minister said.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said the Gulf state – which hosted talks between the US and Taliban that culminated in the 2020 agreement to withdraw US and foreign troops as well as hold subsequent intra-Afghan peace talks – is using its unique position to stress to the Taliban the “importance of acting and behaving as an engaging party over there as part of the Afghan society”.
That comes after the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of Afghanistan and as foreign troops prepared to withdraw by the end of August. The Taliban’s swift rise, which surprised Western intelligence communities, left foreign governments scrambling to respond to the new reality on the ground, and foreign nationals and thousands of Afghan citizens rushing to flee the country.
Amid the uncertainty, Sheikh Mohammed told US broadcaster CNN Qatar is stressing: “You need to engage, you need to agree on a peaceful resolution over there, a format of power-sharing that everybody is represented, protect the minorities’ rights, protect the basic human rights for the people, the women’s right education.
“This is what Qatar is standing for,” he said, adding that the Taliban, which has not yet announced details of how it will govern, had not rejected or accepted meeting those standards.
Sheikh Mohammed added that Qatar – one of the few countries to maintain its embassy in Kabul since the Taliban entered the city on August 15 – is continuing to aid the “evacuation of the foreign nationals and Afghan nationals out of Kabul, getting them safely in transit and going to their countries that are receiving them”.
He told Fox News that Qatar aided in the evacuation of about 7,000 people from Afghanistan on Sunday.
Underscoring the role Qatar has played in the evacuation process, a senior US military commander met face-to-face with the Taliban in Doha last week to negotiate the safe passage of thousands of people wanting to leave Afghanistan.
On Sunday, the US said it evacuated 25,100 people since August 14, with many transiting through the Al Udeid airbase in Qatar.
A backup at the base caused a temporary pause in US evacuations for six hours on Friday.
Washington later announced it secured agreements with a dozen countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia to allow temporary transit of evacuees through their territories.
More difficult has been helping evacuees navigate their way through Taliban checkpoints across the country to reach the US-military controlled Kabul airport.
Al Thani said that has been another area where Doha is uniquely poised to offer assistance.
“We remain that impartial mediator throughout this process, and we maintain the contact with all the parties which have now helped us in supporting different foreign citizens who are living there in Afghanistan,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“Right now we are trying to facilitate the movement of the people from their places to the airport and the transportation.”
He added Qatar is taking “full responsibility for them, taking them to the airport, and ensuring their safety throughout the way”.
“We are trying to facilitate for other countries who don’t have the access to reach the people who are there on the ground,” he said.