WASHINGTON, Nov 12- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Friday that Qatar will represent the diplomatic interests of the United States in Afghanistan following the closure of the US embassy in Kabul during the Taliban takeover.
Speaking after a meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Blinken said Qatar will become a “protecting power” of the United States in Afghanistan.
“Qatar will establish a US interests section within its own embassy in Afghanistan to provide consular and other services to American citizens in Afghanistan,” Blinken was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera.
Qatar helped evacuate thousands of Afghans and US citizens following the American withdrawal from the country and the Taliban’s takeover of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on 15 August. Doha became the transit point for nearly half of the more than 120,000 people evacuated.
The US official said the United States would also continue its engagement with the Taliban through the Qatari capital, Doha, where the Taliban have maintained a political office for years.
Qatar has been a key player in discussions between the Taliban and the United States for many years.
The United States has numerous protecting power agreements in countries where it does not have diplomatic representation. Those notably include Switzerland in Iran, Sweden in North Korea and the Czech Republic in Syria.
Don’t abandon Afghanistan
Qatar as US diplomatic
This first official representation for the US comes at a time when the United States and other Western countries are grappling with how to engage with the Taliban after the hardline group took over Afghanistan in August as US-led forces were withdrawing after two decades of war.
A United Nations official described the country’s situation on Friday as “the worst humanitarian disaster we have ever seen”.
Millions of Afghans face growing hunger amid high food prices, a drought, and an economy in freefall, fueled by a hard cash shortage, sanctions on Taliban Leaders and the suspension of much financial aid.
Thani said that Qatar’s top priority in Afghanistan is ensuring the facilitating of humanitarian aid into the country, adding there “is still much to be done”.
“There will be a lot of challenges in the humanitarian situation and it’s better for us to help the Afghan people over there now before things get much worse,” the Qatari foreign minister said.
Qatar as US diplomatic
Qatar earlier played host to negotiations between the US and Taliban that led to the February 2020 agreement for the US to withdraw troops.
The Taliban victory in August saw the billions of Dollars in foreign aid that had kept the economy afloat abruptly switched off, with more than $9 billion in central bank reserves frozen outside the country.
In a separate agreement, Qatar will continue to temporally host up to 8000 at-risk Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas (SIV) and their eligible family members, the US official said.
“We believe that abandoning Afghanistan will be a big mistake and ignoring it, because isolation has never been an answer or solution for any issue and engagement is the only way forward,” Thani said.
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