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International - September 3, 2021

Afghanistan: Qatar and Turkey become Taliban’s lifeline to the outside world

Afghanistan: Qatar and Turkey become Taliban's lifeline to the outside world

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The Taliban’s celebratory gunfire crackled over Kabul as the West pulled out this week. But militancy alone is likely to leave the Taliban on its own – globally isolated, with millions of Afghans facing an even more uncertain future.

The world’s powers are now scrambling to exert influence amid the return of the country’s Islamist rulers. And in the process two nations from the Arab and Muslim world have been emerging as key mediators and facilitators – Qatar and Turkey.

Both are capitalising on a recent history of access to the Taliban. Both eye opportunities. But both are taking a gamble too – which could even stoke old rivalries further afield, in the Middle East.

Officials in the small, gas-rich state of Qatar in the Gulf have provided the lifeline for countries trying to exit.

“No-one has been able to do any major evacuation process out of Afghanistan without having a Qatari involved in some way or another,” explains Dina Esfandiary, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, a think tank which studies global conflict.

“Afghanistan and the Taliban will be a significant victory for [Qatar], not just because it will show that they’re able to mediate with the Taliban, but it makes them a serious player for the Western countries that are involved,” she told the BBC.

As Western countries fled Kabul, the diplomatic value of these contacts surged. The Twitter feed of Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Lolwah Alkhater, reads like a conveyer belt of retweeted tributes from world powers.

“Qatar… continues to be a trusted mediator in this conflict,” she wrote earlier this month.


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