Qatar has agreed to become a “protective force” for US interests in Afghanistan, and assumes a formal role as the diplomatic intermediary between Washington and the new Taliban government, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken announced on Friday.
Why it’s important: The United States has shown no signs of acknowledging the Taliban government, but diplomatic commitment will be needed to avert the humanitarian mass crisis hitting Afghanistan as winter approaches.
Driver news: An agreement signed on Friday will establish a special department in the Qatari embassy in Kabul to provide certain consular services to US citizens and monitor the security conditions of US diplomatic assets in Afghanistan.
- Another agreement formalizes the US partnership with Qatar to continue to facilitate travel for Afghans with special immigrant visas issued by the State Department and to make Qatar a transit point for Afghans leaving.
- Blinken also announced on Friday that all U.S. citizens who have requested assistance from the U.S. government to leave Afghanistan – and who have the necessary travel documents – have now been offered an opportunity to do so.
The big picture: Qatar has played a crucial role in US negotiations with the Taliban in recent years, helping to facilitate the evacuation of thousands of Americans, Afghans and allies when Kabul fell to the rebels in August.
- The small Gulf emirate will take on a mediating role similar to Switzerland for US interests in Iran.
- The Taliban’s political office with which the Trump administration negotiated the peace deal that ultimately led to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is based in Doha.