Qatar diplomat emphasises engagement with Taleban

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) – Qatar’s diplomatic point man on Afghanistan said on Tuesday countries should engage the country’s new Taleban rulers, warning that isolation could lead to instability and a wide-reaching security threat, as happened when al-Qaeda used the country as a base to plot the 9/11 attacks.

Qatar’s special envoy for counterterrorism and mediation in conflict resolution Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani said he’s held conversations with the Taleban about combatting terrorism. The Taleban, he said, are committed to fighting the Islamic State (IS) group, which is increasingly active in Afghanistan, and ensuring the country is not used by terrorist organisations. The sides have also discussed pressing issues related to the role of women in society, girls’ access to education and the importance of an inclusive government.

Qatar’s policies and insights on Afghanistan are watched closely because the tiny gas-rich nation has played an outsized role in the war-torn country in the wake of the United States (US) withdrawal.

“What we are saying to the Taleban, which is the caretaker government, the de facto authorities in Kabul, (is that) discrimination and exclusion… this is not a good policy,” al-Qahtani said in a speech at the Global Security Forum in Doha organised by The Soufan Center. “As a de facto authority, you have certain responsibility, obligations to discharge.”

The current Afghan government, which the Taleban said is only interim, is comprised solely of Taleban figures, including several blacklisted by the United Nations (UN).

“They need more collaboration and more cooperation and more assistance from other countries,” al-Qahtani said, adding that engagement with the world is the only way forward to stave off a humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished nation.

Qatar was crucial to the chaotic US airlift of more than 100,000 people from Kabul after the Taleban’s surprise takeover of the capital on August 15, and has hosted face-to-face talks between the Taleban and the US.

An Afghan girl passing by a mosque covered by bullet holes at a village in Wardak province, Afghanistan. PHOTO: AP