Qatar represents US interests in Afghanistan, says Blinken

Qatar represents US interests in Afghanistan, says Blinken

WASHINGTON — The small Middle Eastern country, Qatar, will serve as the United States’ diplomatic plenipotentiary in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Friday. He represents American interests and helps process visas for thousands of people seeking to flee Taliban control.

Qatar has been a key go-between for years in the delicate relationship between the Taliban and the US invaders who unsuccessfully waged a 20-year war to eliminate it. The Persian Gulf country has staged diplomatic negotiations between the two sides to end the war and has received more than 60,000 people from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in August.

The United States does not consider the Taliban government to be legitimate and has closed the US embassy in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, during the frantic evacuation. Under the new agreement, Qatar will assume some US diplomatic duties in Afghanistan, including what Mr Blinken described as consular services and monitoring the conditions and security of abandoned US facilities.

The agreement was announced Friday as part of an annual strategic summit between the United States and Qatar, and “events in Afghanistan in recent months have strengthened that partnership, including on the most sensitive and urgent issues,” said Mr Blinken. .

US and Taliban officials continue to meet, most recently in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss the humanitarian crisis that threatens to engulf Afghanistan as winter approaches. And last month, Thomas West, the ministry’s new envoy to Afghan policy, met with Taliban diplomats in Qatar’s capital Doha.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said his country will “remain an instrument of peace and stability in the region” and noted ongoing talks with the Taliban to ensure humanitarian aid is delivered to needy Afghans. .

“We believe that leaving Afghanistan will be a big mistake, and ignoring it, because isolation has never been an answer or solution to any problem,” al-Thani said. “Involvement is the only way forward.”

Similar diplomatic proxy agreements where the United States asks a third party to serve as a so-called protective force in a hostile nation have sparked secret back-channel discussions on sensitive topics. Switzerland, for example, has served as a protective force for US interests in Iran, including acting as an intermediary to secure the release of hostages.

It was not clear Friday whether that is part of what Qatar would do for the United States in Kabul, as US and Taliban diplomats are already in talks.

The new agreement also formalizes a role Qatar has been playing since August: allowing Afghans with special US immigrant visas and other refugee admissions to live at a US military base outside Doha while they await security clearance to enter the United States. . In recent weeks, the government of Qatar has begun requiring Afghans to hold passports or other official travel documents to enter the country, unlike the tens of thousands of people evacuated in August, many of them without any identification.

Al-Thani called the passport requirements “primarily a security measure” but said exceptions would be allowed.

Mr Blinken said 380 US citizens and 280 legal US residents had been evacuated from Afghanistan since September 1 after the US military completed its withdrawal. All remaining Americans in Afghanistan who have expressed an interest in leaving have been contacted and given the opportunity to do so, he said.

He didn’t say how many of those people had been denied a flight, describing it as “an incredibly painful decision to leave, to give up everything.”

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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