The world powers trying to contain the consequences of the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan have turned to Qatar, a small country rich in natural gas, which has long been a link between the West and Islamic organizations.
The U.S. regional military headquarters in Qatar has become the fulcrum for the last-minute U.S. evacuation, and the Gulf countries have become a transit point for the evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees.
For decades, Qatar has established ties with Islamists and sought to play the role of power broker and mediator. Eight years ago, the Taliban opened a representative office in Doha with the support of the United States. As a promoter of negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, the country played a huge role in geopolitics.
David Roberts, an associate professor at King’s College London, said: “The Afghanistan crisis is perfect for Qatar-it is the culmination of what the country has been trying to do.”
“I’m not saying that Qataris were scholars ten years ago. They believed that establishing this relationship would put them in a dominant position in Afghanistan after the end of the occupation, but Qataris were unwelcome when they intuitively contacted the Taliban a long time ago. The actors are very important.”
The Afghan embassies of Western powers have moved from Kabul to Doha, partly to facilitate communication with the Taliban. Before the U.S. withdrawal, Qatar, which mediates between the Afghan parties, is conducting multilateral negotiations with the Taliban on the future actions of Kabul Airport after the U.S. withdrawal.
Christian Coates said: “The relocation of these diplomatic missions shows that no matter what kind of diplomacy it intends to undertake, Qatar will somehow act as a facilitator and mediator to maintain dialogue with political leaders, because the world is waiting to see Kabul emerge. What kind of regime.” Ulrichsen, Middle East researcher at Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy.
At a press conference in Doha, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described Qatar as the “key” to the crisis.
Come in from the cold
The Qatari’s ties with the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood and Tehran often arouse the outrage of some neighboring countries. In 2017, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies imposed trade and travel embargoes on the state, partly because of the conflicting attitude of then-President Donald Trump towards Doha in the early days, which is traditionally one of Washington’s most important strategic partners.
In the first few days of the boycott, after he visited Saudi Arabia for the first time and was sought after by officials including the current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump seemed to support Saudi claims that Qatar was funding extremism, but Doha denied the accusation.
Doha is one of the richest countries per capita in the world. With its strong financial influence and re-planning of trade routes through countries such as Turkey and Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main competitors, it has successfully defeated the boycott. The Trump administration is ultimately committed to ending the Gulf dispute that has pitted Western allies against each other. But it was the rise of President Joe Biden that gave the Saudi crown prince extra impetus to change direction. After months of negotiations, the embargo was finally ended in February.
Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell tweeted: “As the last plane from Afghanistan landed in Qatar — to join the 1,000 refugees hosted by Qatari — think Think about how close we are to losing Qatar’s status as a Gulf base.” “In 2017, Trump almost destroyed relations between the two countries during the Saudi blockade. Biden wisely recognized [the] Strategic partnership. “
The end of the embargo reflects the broader Downgrade In the Middle East, part of the reason is the destruction caused by the election of Biden and the new crown epidemic. In recent months, major rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran have negotiated. Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullahman Al Thani, said: “I think the overall dynamics of the region have changed, and there has been a tone of relaxation, containment, engagement and dialogue.” “This is What we Qatari believe in.”
Lend a helping hand
One of the most obvious manifestations of Qatar’s role is to assist in the evacuation of more than 43,000 people from Afghanistan. The Qatar ambassador personally escorted the evacuees through the Taliban checkpoints, using the country’s influence to help thousands of people in desperate need.
One of them is Haseenah, a 20-year-old student who is now safely living in the Doha compound. Her first attempt to escape from Afghanistan ended in failure at the gate of Kabul Airport last month, where she was repelled by Taliban militias.
The next day, the ambassador accompanied her and six other students through the checkpoint and the desperate crowd around the airport, and boarded the evacuation flight.
“My mother never let me travel to any school-now we are here alone,” she said. “My mother was crying when we left, but she was grateful that we were all right.”
Renaissance of national pride
This high-profile role has ignited the national pride that has been weakened by international condemnation in the past few years, partly because Qatar is suspected of abusing migrant workers before the World Cup next year.
Last month, Amnesty International accused the authorities of failing to investigate the link between premature deaths and unsafe working conditions in the high temperatures in the Gulf. The government denied the allegations, saying that the injuries and death rates “complied with best international practice and set new standards for the region”.
The end of the embargo has also improved people’s mood, but due to Covid restrictions restricting tourism and travel, few companies have noticed the economic stimulus. Nonetheless, with the rebound in demand for natural gas and the end of coronavirus restrictions, the hydrocarbon-dependent economy is expected to rebound from last year’s recession.
For some, the crisis in Afghanistan may change the global narrative surrounding the country.
“This is an important role we played in Afghanistan, and we finally got some positive news,” said a senior financier in Qatar. “From labor issues during the World Cup to lockdowns, when everyone thinks we are terrorists, our evaluation is very bad.”
Qatar can look forward to further reviews on the eve of the World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in December 2022 to avoid the summer heat. “But the goodwill surrounding the evacuation and humanitarian response may offset many of the negative effects of 2017 and achieve some international goodwill before the World Cup spotlight,” Ulriksen said.
Additional report by Andrew England in London