January 23, 2022

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From Afghanistan to the World Cup, Very small, Wealthy Qatar Methods Up

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DOHA, Qatar — As chaos took more than the United States’ past-minute endeavours to evacuate much more than 120,000 of its citizens and partners from Afghanistan final thirty day period, a very small, wealthy region that lots of People would struggle to obtain on a map all of a sudden located by itself uniquely placed to help out.

Qatar, a sandy, solar-baked peninsula in the Persian Gulf, received about 60,000 Us citizens and Afghans, more than any other nation. And with its ties to both of those the United States — it hosts the greatest American navy base in the Center East — and the Taliban, it is effectively placed to engage in a strong part as an middleman amongst the new Taliban-operate Afghanistan and the West.

The gasoline-abundant country, which has prolonged applied its great prosperity to punch previously mentioned its fat, is having a moment in the world spotlight.

Even as it provides tons of meals and health-related aid to Afghanistan and hosts the American secretaries of defense and point out, who flew to Qatar this week, it has produced interest-grabbing news in the entire world of soccer, the place it just lately signed 1 of the sport’s finest players, Lionel Messi, to the Paris St.-Germain crew it owns. The place is also established to host the soccer Planet Cup subsequent yr.

“Qatar has often desired to be a world wide player, regardless of whether that is internet hosting large athletics events or signing important players, or presenting itself as a regional linchpin for world politics and diplomacy,” explained Michael Stephens, a senior fellow at the Overseas Plan Investigation Institute and an pro on Gulf politics. “They have not normally obtained this balance proper, but at the moment they appear to have taken the right initiatives at the right time.”

Qatar’s enable in the Afghan airlift received plaudits from President Biden, and each Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Protection Lloyd J. Austin III arrived in the Qatari funds, Doha, on Monday, exactly where they dined with the country’s 41-calendar year-outdated monarch, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

“Many nations have stepped up to aid the evacuation and relocation efforts in Afghanistan, but no place has accomplished extra than Qatar,” Mr. Blinken mentioned at a information convention in Doha on Tuesday.

“The partnership between Qatar and the United States has never ever been more powerful,” he additional.

Standing beside him, Qatar’s overseas minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, called the United States “our most crucial ally.”

The sunny instant, just before a lender of American and Qatari flags, marked a sharp turnaround in bilateral relations from the prior administration, which experienced originally supported a blockade in opposition to Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. These nations, backed by President Trump, accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and interfering in the interior affairs of other Arab states, accusations that Qatar denied.

The blockade finished early this 12 months, before Mr. Biden’s inauguration.

Now it is Qatar’s very good relations with outliers like the Taliban and Iran — relations that contributed to the accusations of supporting terrorism — that have created it a must have as a go-in between, permitting Qatar to advertise what it calls “preventive diplomacy.”

“Sometimes, a modest dimension allows you really to participate in particularly that job, because you are not scary any one,” Qatar’s assistant international minister, Lolwah Al-Khater, claimed in an job interview. “It’s a compact nation that no a person is concerned about. We are not likely to wage a war from any one.”

Qatar, which is smaller than Connecticut and has about 300,000 citizens, shares a substantial natural fuel area with Iran, whose proceeds have presented its persons a for every-capita money of extra than $90,000 for every 12 months, a person of the world’s maximum, according to the C.I.A. World Factbook.

Qatar has used that revenue to bankroll and advertise its look at of the location — 1 that contains political Islamists — by way of Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite network it owns, and to area the profitable bid to host the 2022 Planet Cup. Alongside the way, it has taken care of ties with a vary of Islamist groups, which includes the Palestinian militants Hamas in Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

These ties have proved useful to the West, which has leaned on them to negotiate hostage releases in nations around the world these kinds of as Syria. And Qatar hosted peace talks with the Taliban, which opened an business office in Doha in 2013, with tacit authorization from the United States.

The Trump administration’s arrangement with the Taliban location a timetable for the American withdrawal was signed in Doha past 12 months. And because the American embassy in Kabul was evacuated past month, the United States has moved its Afghan diplomatic functions to Doha.

“There is no question that they have performed their cards very well,” Mr. Stephens said. “They sense that this has positioned them as being a helpful ally to the West and also as an interlocutor on wider regional issues, and that is what they generally wished.”

In modern times, Qatar has delivered 68 tons of food stuff and health care help to the Afghan capital, Kabul, Qatari officers claimed. Qatari officers and technicians have also flown to Kabul to meet up with with the Taliban and function with their counterparts from Turkey on how to reopen the city’s international airport.

And Qatar is using its leverage to push the Taliban to make great on its vows of moderation, Ms. Al-Khater mentioned.

“We are trying to persuade the Taliban to have a far more inclusive authorities that represents every person,” she reported. “Women illustration, we are not absolutely sure about that section, if it is likely to be thriving, but at the very least we are pushing.”

The Taliban have manufactured general public assurances that they would grant amnesty to officers and troopers of the previous governing administration, and would permit females to operate and research, activities largely banned less than its earlier government from 1996 to 2001, which brutally enforced a stringent interpretation of Islamic regulation.

How well they reside up to those guarantees continues to be to be viewed. The group has nonetheless to name a full federal government and has violently suppressed protests by women in Kabul. In other parts of the state, its fighters have been accused of heading residence-to-household to observe down old foes.

At property, Qatar is even now in the throes of the evacuation.

Though about two thirds of the evacuees have moved on to other international locations, about 20,000 are nonetheless in Qatar, which has been offering them with food items and medical care.

Some of them, including Afghans who worked for media businesses this kind of as The New York Instances, have been housed in brand-new villas designed for the Planet Cup, but most are living in Al Udeid, the sprawling United States armed service base, the place crowding, heat and minimal sanitation facilities have been major problems.

Ms. Al-Khater explained individuals fears are becoming dealt with, and that the Qatari federal government and involved charities have crafted extra shelters, loos and industry clinics and are supplying far more than 55,000 foods for each day.

Mr. Stephens, the Gulf politics specialist, explained it was unclear how very long Qatar would reap the advantages of its support in Afghanistan but that, like all the Gulf states, it was trying to find strategies to raise its standing in Washington.

“They all want to be in Biden’s excellent e book,” he said. “They know that this administration is not solely eager on the Gulf states, so they want to existing themselves as a force multiplier fairly than a challenge.”

Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

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