Qatar, essential mediator of the Afghan conflict

Closed the American Embassy in Afghanistan. The last plane left Kabul on Monday, August 30, a day before the deadline given by Joe Biden, with the American ambassador in Kabul and a general on board.

A few hours later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the opening of a “New diplomatic mission” led by a “A new team” headed by former number two at the American Embassy in Kabul, Ian McCary. US diplomacy in Afghanistan will now take place in Doha, Qatar. Even where the agreement with the Taliban was signed in February 2020, recording the start of the withdrawal of American troops.

Since 2013 and the opening of a Taliban political representation in Doha at the request of the United States, Qatar has become the land of talks in the Gulf. Neutrality sought and desired as a guarantee of its own security. Because the Qataris seek above all to attract the good graces of their allies in a region where enemies abound.

“Use Islam as a political instrument”

Unhappy with its good relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, neighboring Saudi Arabia, but also the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, imposed a semi-blockade on Doha from 2017 to 2021. In vain. Qatar’s strength? “To use Islam as a political instrument and not to make the kingdom of God on earth”, answers Marc Lavergne, emeritus research director at the CNRS and specialist in the Gulf. In a nutshell: the “Pragmatism”.

Qatar now finds itself in a position of strength in the region. The Afghan crisis even allowed a “Coordination with the UAE to share the flow of refugees”, remarked with astonishment Anne Gadel, member of the Observatory of North Africa and the Middle East of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation. Abu Dhabi has hosted former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani since the fall of Kabul and cannot legitimately claim to mediate with the Taliban.

On the other hand, Qatar offers a privileged space for discussion with the new masters of Afghanistan – even ahead of Pakistan, which is bordering on it. “It is an essential link for the American strategy in the Gulf”, continues the specialist. The US military base at Al Udeid, where 40% of all evacuees from Kabul passed through, is also the starting point for “All operations in the region”, she explains.

All-round diplomatic relations

The Taliban themselves have good relations with the emirate. It is no coincidence that the Qatari TV channel Al-Jazeera had exclusive rights to the footage of their arrival in Kabul. Two days later, the number two Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, took off from Doha for Kandahar on a plane… also Qatari.

From Baghdad, Emmanuel Macron greeted on Saturday the “Extremely important and useful role” from Qatar. France is counting on the small emirate of the Gulf to negotiate with the Taliban power and develop airlift operations after August 31 – “Under security conditions which remain to be defined”, recognized the French head of state. Qatar has already positioned itself, with Turkey, to offer its services to the Taliban in the management of the Kabul airport. And continue to serve as an intermediary of choice with Westerners.


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