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Qatar foreign minister becomes most senior diplomat to visit Kabul since Taliban takeover

Doha has played an outsized role in Afghanistan since the US withdrawal began, showing a unique willingness to work with the Taliban
A member of the Qatar special forces stands guard as Qatar's foreign minister arrives at the airport in Kabul on 12 September (AFP)

Qatar's foreign minister, who is also the country's deputy premier, was briefly in Afghanistan on Sunday, becoming the most senior diplomat to visit the country since the Taliban's takeover on 15 August. 

A Taliban official tweeted that Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met senior officials of the new Afghan government, although details of their talks were not disclosed.

The group released pictures of Sheikh Mohammad meeting new Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, while photographs of him with former president Hamid Karzai were circulating on social media.

Qatar has long acted as a mediator on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban's talks with the United States under former president Donald Trump, and then with the now-deposed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani.

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On Friday, Qatar's fifth humanitarian aid shipment arrived in Kabul, with a total of 118 tonnes of food and medical supplies having been delivered from the Gulf country in recent weeks. 

Qatar supports efforts in Afghanistan

The Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on 15 August after the US and its allies withdrew their troops after nearly two decades of conflict.

Qatar, a gas-rich nation that hosts a major US airbase, played an outsized role in Afghanistan earlier this month, helping evacuate thousands of Afghans and US citizens. Qatar was the transit point for nearly half of the more than 120,000 people evacuated.  

Qatar minister optimistic on Kabul airport reopening following US talks
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At a dinner in the Gulf country earlier this month, senior US officials expressed Washington’s thanks to Doha and hailed its "extraordinary support".  

"Many countries have stepped up to help the evacuation and relocation efforts in Afghanistan, but no country has done more than Qatar," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the time. 

"The strongest relationship that we and Qatar have built through this evacuation and relocation effort I know is going to pay continued dividends across these so many other key areas in the months and years ahead," Blinken said.

"What Qatar has done here - for Americans, for Afghans, for citizens of many other countries - will be remembered for a long, long time," he added.

Experts told Middle East Eye that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan could help establish a new alliance of powers who are willing to work with the Taliban, including Qatar, Turkey and Pakistan.

No country has yet formally recognised the new Taliban government - and only three did during the first rule of the hardline Islamists from 1996-2001.

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