Qatar emerges as key player in Afghanistan after US pullout

DOHA: Qatar played an outsized role in US efforts to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan. Now the tiny Gulf Arab state is being asked to help shape what is next for Afghanistan because of its ties with both Washington and the Taliban, who are in charge in Kabul.

Qatar will be among global heavyweights on Monday when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosts a virtual meeting to discuss a coordinated approach for the days ahead, as the US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country.

The meeting will also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the European Union and Nato.

Qatar has also reportedly been asked by the Taliban to provide civilian technical assistance at Kabul’s international airport, once the US military withdrawal is complete on Tuesday. Authorities in Qatar have not commented on the reports.

Meanwhile, international UN agencies are asking Qatar for help and support in delivering aid to Afghanistan.

Qatar’s role was somewhat unexpected. The nation, which shares a land border with Saudi Arabia and a vast underwater gas field in the Persian Gulf with Iran, was supposed to be a transit point for just a few thousand people airlifted from Afghanistan over a timeline of several months.

After the surprisingly swift Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, the United States looked to Qatar to help shoulder the evacuations of tens of thousands in a chaotic and hurried airlift.

In the end, nearly 40 per cent of all evacuees were moved out via Qatar, winning its leadership heaps of praise from Washington. International media outlets also leaned on Qatar for their own staff evacuations. – AP