From Afghanistan to the World Cup, Tiny, Wealthy Qatar is stepping down

DOHA, Qatar — As chaos took over the United States’ last-minutes of attempts to evacuate more than 120,000 of her burgers and partners from Afghanistan last month, a small, prosperous country that many Americans would struggle find on suddenly a card found itself uniquely placed to help out.

Qatar, a sandy, sun-drenched peninsula in the Persian Gulf, received about 60,000 Americans and Afghans, more than any other country. And with his tires met both the United States – it houses the largest American military base in the Middle East — and the Taliban, it is well placed to play a strong role as an intermediary between the new Talibanrun Afghanistan and the West.

The gas-rich country, which has long used its vast wealth to rise above its weight, is having a moment in the world spotlight.

Even if it delivers tons of food and medical aid to Afghanistan and host to the US secretaries of defense and state, who flew to Qatar this week, it has made attracting attention news in the world of football, where it recently signed one of the best of the sport players, Lionel Messi, to the Paris St. Germain team the possession. The country is also set to host the World Cup next year.

“Qatar always has wanted be one global player, of which is huge now sports events of signing major players, of presents itself as a regional hub for global politics and diplomacy,” said Michael Stephens, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and an expert on golf politics. “They don’t always have this balance right, but right now they seem to have taken the right initiatives at the right time.”

Qatar’s help in the Afghan airlift won compliments of President Biden, and both secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has arrived in the Qatari capital Doha, on Monday, where they ate with the 41-year-old monarch, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

“A lot of countries have stepped up until help the evacuation and relocation efforts in Afghanistan, but no country has done that more than Qatar,” Mr Blinken told a news conference in Doha on Tuesday.

“The partnership between Qatar and the United States has never been stronger,” he said added.

Standing next to him, Qatar’s foreign ministerMohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani called the United States “our most important ally”.

The sunny moment, for a bank of US and Qatari flags, marked a sharp turnaround in bilateral relations of the previous government, die had initially supported a blockade against Qatar through Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. That countries, backed by President Trump, accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and interference in the internal affairs of other Arab states, accusations die Qatar denied.

The blockade ended early this year, for Mr Biden’s inauguration.

Now it’s from Qatar good relationships with outliers like the Taliban and Iran – relations die contributed to the allegations of supporting terrorism — die to have made it is invaluable as an intermediary, allowing Qatar to promote what it calls “preemptive diplomacy.”

“Sometimes, a small measure allows you actually play exactly that rolebecause you are not intimidating anyone”, foreigner’s assistant from Qatar minister, Lolwah Al-Khater, said: in an interview. “It is a small country that doesn’t one Is worried over. We are not going to war against anyone.”

Qatar, which is smaller than Connecticut and has a population of about 300,000, shares a huge natural gas field with Iran, whose proceeds are people an income per capita of more than $90,000 per year, one of the world’s highest, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Qatar used that money bankroll and promoting his view of the region — one including political Islamists – via Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite network own it, and to make the successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup. Along the way, it has maintained ties with An range of Islamic groups, including Palestinian militants Hamas in Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

These ties have proved useful to the West, which leaned on to negotiate over the release of hostages in countries like Syria. and Qatar hosted peace talks with the Taliban, die An office in Doha in 2013, with tacit consent of the United States.

The Trump Administration agreement with the Taliban set a schedule for the US withdrawal was signed in Doha last year. And since the US embassy in Kabul was evacuated last Last month, the United States moved its Afghan diplomatic operations to Doha.

“There is no doubt that they cards good,” said Mr. Stephens. “They feel this has positioned them as a useful ally to the West and” also as an interlocutor on broader regional issues, and that’s what they always do wanted.”

Qatar has 68 . in recent days ton delivered of food and medical aid to the Afghan capital of Kabul, Qatari officials said. Qatari officials and technicians have also flew to Kabul to meet with the Taliban and work with their counterparts from Turkey on how to reopen the city’s international airport.

And Qatar is using its leverage to pressure the Taliban to good on his vows of moderation, said Ms. Al-Khater.

“We are trying to encourage the Taliban to more including government that represents everyone,” she said. “Women’s Representation, We Are Not” sure over that part, if it’s a success, but we’re going in anyway.”

The Taliban have made public guarantees die they would give amnesty to officials and soldiers of the former government, and would allow women until work and study, activities largely banned under the previous government from 1996 to 2001, die brutally enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

how good they live up at die promises remains being seen. The group need to name one more complete government and has violently suppressed protests by women in Kabul. In other parts of the land, its fighters are accused of to go house-until-house to look up down old enemies.

Bee home, Qatar is still in the struggle of the evacuation.

While about two thirds of the evacuees have moved on the other countries, about 20,000 are still in Qatar, which delivered them with food and medical care.

Some of them, including Afghans who worked for media organizations such as The New York Times, are housed in Brand-new villas built for the World Cup, but most are still alive in Al Udeid, the vast United States military base, where crowds, heat and limited sanitation were important problems.

Mrs. Al-Khater said that die concerns are addressed and that the Qatari government and related charities built more shelters, bathrooms and field clinics and provide more than 55,000 meals a day.

Mr Stephens, the Gulf politics expert, said it was unclear how long would Qatar reap the advantages of to be help in Afghanistan, but that like all Gulf States, it looked for ways to increase its position in Washington.

“All of them want to be in Biden’s good book,” he said. “She know that this government is not entirely enthusiastic on the Gulf States, so they want present themselves as a force multiplier in instead of a problem.”

Michael Crowley contributed to reporting.

Read More: World News

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