FT: Qatar has become the bridge between the West and the Taliban

Amman Today

publish date 2021-09-05 19:07:01

The “Financial Times” newspaper said that Doha, after three years of the blockade imposed on it by its neighbors, plays an exceptionally large role on the world stage.

The newspaper added in a report prepared by Simon Kerr that the world powers that are trying to contain the repercussions of the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan have turned into the small country rich in natural gas.

The American base, the largest in the Middle East, became a focal point for the hasty American exit from Afghanistan, and the Gulf state was a launching pad for the evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees. The newspaper adds that Qatar has for decades established relations with Islamists and has tried to find an independent path in decision-making and mediation. It facilitated American talks with the Taliban and allowed the latter, with the support of the United States, to open a political office in the capital, Doha, which allowed it to play a large and larger role in geopolitical issues.

The newspaper quoted King’s College researcher David Roberts as saying: “The Afghan crisis is ideal for Qatar and is the culmination of what it is trying to do.” And “I am not saying that the Qataris knew a decade ago that building this relationship might put them in a key position in Afghanistan and when the occupation ends, but they understood for a long time that dealing with the Taliban, which was not a popular player, is very important.”

He says that the embassies of Western countries in Afghanistan have moved their business from Kabul to Doha, in order to communicate with the Taliban. Qatar, which mediated between the Afghan parties before the US withdrawal, is leading multi-pronged talks with the Taliban about the future of air operations at Kabul Airport in the wake of the US withdrawal.

“The relocation of diplomatic missions suggests that any diplomacy that takes place will involve Qatar in one way or another as a mediator and facilitator to maintain dialogue with the political leadership at a time when the world awaits the picture of order that will emerge in Kabul”.

In his statements in Doha, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described Qatar as a “vital part” in dealing with the crisis.

The writer points out that the Qataris’ relations with the Taliban, Tehran and the Muslim Brotherhood angered its neighbors. In 2017, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies imposed a trade and travel boycott on the neighbor, and at the time contributed to the contradiction shown by US President Donald Trump towards Doha, which is traditionally one of the most important strategic partners of the United States.

Trump, who visited Saudi Arabia before announcing the blockade on Qatar, seemed to support accusations that Doha supports extremism, accusations it denies. Qatar, which is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of per capita income, was able to defeat the embargo due to its financial influence and the change of flights through countries such as Iran and Turkey, which are rivals to Saudi Arabia.

The Trump administration has tried to end the Gulf dispute that has turned Western allies against each other. The arrival of President Joseph Biden was a catalyst for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to end the blockade in February after months of negotiations. “With the last landings from Afghanistan leaving Qatar and the thousands of refugees hosted by Qatar, think how we came close to losing Qatar as a base in the Gulf,” Democratic Congressman Swalwell commented in a tweet. He added: “In 2017, Trump ruined the relationship during the Saudi boycott. Biden has wisely recognized the importance of the strategic relationship.

The newspaper notes that ending the boycott reflects a state of reduced tension between rivals in the Middle East, stemming from the election of Biden and the devastating effects of Covid-19 on the economies of the region.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, rivals for influence, have begun talks in recent months. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani commented: “I think the dynamic in the region has changed and there is a tone for reducing tension, containing, interacting and dialogue,” which is “something we in Qatar believe in.”

One manifestation, says Kerr, is that the Qataris facilitated the evacuation of more than 43,000 people from Afghanistan. The Qatari ambassador personally escorted the evacuees past Taliban checkpoints and used his country’s influence to help thousands in desperate need. One of them was Hasina, a 20-year-old student who lives safely in a Doha compound, where her first attempts to escape ended in failure at the gates of Kabul airport when Taliban fighters ordered her to return.

The next day, the ambassador escorted her and six of her colleagues through checkpoints and desperate crowds to the evacuation plane. “My mum didn’t even let me go on a school trip and now we are all alone here,” Hasina said. “My mum was crying when we left but she is grateful that we are safe.”
The newspaper believes that the role that Qatar played has revived in the hearts of its citizens the national pride that has been distorted in the past years by accusations by international organizations of their country and its poor treatment of migrant workers in the facilities of the World Cup, which it will host next year.

Last month, Amnesty International accused the authorities of failing to open an investigation into the premature deaths of workers and their relationship to working conditions. The government rejected the accusations, saying the injuries and deaths were “in line with international best practices and that they present new standards for the region.”

The suspension of the boycott also improved the mood, although the manifestations of commercial activity have not yet shown a transformation due to travel and tourism restrictions as a result of the Corona virus. However, there are signs of the growth of the gas-dependent economy and its exit from recession with the increase in global demand for gas and the end of restrictions imposed due to Corona.

Some hope the Afghan crisis will change the global narrative about the country. “We play a big role in Afghanistan and eventually we get positive news,” said a senior Qatari official, “and we actually got a bad reputation from the World Cup-related labor issues to the boycott when everyone thought we were terrorists.” Qatar can expect more scrutiny with the World Cup matches approaching in December 2022. “But goodwill on the evacuation and humanitarian response may offset a lot of the negativity of 2017 and achieve international goodwill before focusing on it in the World Cup matches,” says Orlchsen.

#Qatar #bridge #West #Taliban

World News

Source : ألدستور

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