Qatar warns isolating Taliban could lead to more instability

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani says security and socioeconomic progress depend on engagement with Taliban.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, left, and Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani at a news conference in Doha [Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters]

Qatar’s foreign minister has warned that isolating the Taliban could lead to further instability and urged countries to engage with the movement to address security and socioeconomic concerns in Afghanistan.

“If we are starting to put conditions and stopping this engagement, we are going to leave a vacuum, and the question is, who is going to fill this vacuum?,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in Doha on Tuesday, alongside his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.

The US-allied Gulf Arab state has emerged as a key interlocutor to the Taliban, having hosted the group’s political office since 2013.

No country has recognised the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan after their capture of Kabul on August 15. Many Western states have urged the group to form an inclusive government and to respect human rights.

“We believe that without engagement we cannot reach … real progress on the security front or on the socioeconomic front,” Sheikh Mohammed said, adding that recognising the Taliban as the government was not a priority.

The Qatari foreign minister also warned against any rise of “terrorism” after the US withdrawal and called for an inclusive government.

“It is our role to always urge them (the Taliban) to have an expanded government that includes all parties and not to exclude any party.

“During our talks with the Taliban, there was no positive or negative response,” al-Thani said, referring to recent talks between Qatar and Afghanistan’s new rulers.

Taliban fighters celebrated with gunfire on Tuesday, hours after the last US forces abandoned Kabul, closing a frenzied airlift operation that saw more than 123,000 foreign nationals and Afghans flee.

Germany sees ‘no way around’ Taliban talks

Maas, in turn, said he saw “no way around” talking with the Taliban.

“I personally believe there is absolutely no way around having talks with the Taliban … because we absolutely cannot afford to have instability in Afghanistan,” he said.

“That would aid terrorism and have a huge negative impact on neighbouring countries.

“We are not looking at questions of formal recognition, but we want to solve the existing problems – regarding the people in Afghanistan, the German citizens, but also the local staff who want to leave the country.”

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said keeping Kabul airport open was of “existential importance”, as Western nations now consider how to get more people out of the country.

Talks are continuing regarding who will now run Kabul airport.

US officials have said the airport is in a bad condition, with much of its basic infrastructure degraded or destroyed.

The Taliban has asked Turkey to handle logistics while they maintain control of security, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to pour cold water on that idea on Sunday.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that there seemed to be an emerging plan to mitigate a crisis in the post-Afghanistan-war era.

“The road map is needed in order to stabilise Afghanistan and avoid any strategic, political or military void, as well a emergence of extremist terrorist groups,” he said.

Bishara said that the elements in the plan, such as demands on the airport and formation of an inclusive government will be monitored before the world powers send aid to the Taliban.

The US invaded Afghanistan and toppled its Taliban government in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda, which the US accused Afghanistan of harbouring.

Western capitals fear Afghanistan could again become a haven for armed groups bent on attacking them.

Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain have been instrumental staging posts for evacuation flights for Western countries’ citizens, as well as Afghan interpreters, journalists and others.

The UK and US have said they will operate their Afghan missions from Doha.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies