Taliban Talks Should be Judged by Actions: Qatar Says

September 08, 2021

Qatar said the Taliban had shown “realpolitik” and should be judged on their actions as Afghanistan’s undisputed rulers, but stopped short of declaring official recognition of the new Kabul government. In an exclusive interview, Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah al-Khater told AFP that the Afghans would decide their future not the international community. Until the Taliban finished their lightning takeover of Afghanistan last month, Doha served as the primary link between the Taliban, which established a political office in Qatar in 2013, and the international community, including Washington.

“They have demonstrated a great deal of rationality. Let us take advantage of the opportunities there and examine their public actions, “Khater stopped short of declaring formal recognition for Afghanistan’s new rulers.”They are the de facto rulers, without a doubt,” she told AFP in an interview late Monday, before the Taliban revealed their right wing caretaker government. On Tuesday, the Taliban named an acting government led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, but they have yet to receive official recognition from any UN member state, including Qatar.

However, Khater, Qatar’s international narrator and the face of the country’s corona virus response, noted “some good gestures” from Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers. “The fact that many evacuees were able to leave Kabul including many female students is a showcase, because it would not have been possible without their cooperation,” she told AFP. Qatar’s recognition of the Taliban would not be immediate, according to Khater. “We don’t rush into acclaim. But we don’t completely cut ties with the Taliban instead, we strike a balance.”

The US, for its part, said on Tuesday that it was “concerned” about the Taliban government revealed earlier in the day, noting that it was made up entirely of Taliban members and did not include any women. A State Department spokesman acknowledged that it was a “caretaker” government and stated that “we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not its words.” Khater stated that since regaining power, the Taliban has largely allowed Afghan health officials, including female medics, to carry on with their corona virus response. Western countries and non-governmental organizations have urged the group to respect the rights of women and minorities in the days since their surprise takeover of Kabul on August 15.

Following the agreement, talks in Doha between the Afghan government and the Taliban failed to produce a workable blueprint for an inclusive government. When asked if Qatar’s actions had aided the Taliban’s resurgence, Khater replied, “Don’t kill the messenger.” “Qatar has been the messenger, we’ve been facilitating,” she explained. Qatar has been thrust into the international spotlight as a result of facilitating one of the largest airlifts in history in response to the takeover. Khater was in charge of Doha’s evacuation operations and even met with some refugees in person.

“There will be benefits if (the Taliban) respects human rights, women’s rights, and especially women’s education. There will be implications if they do not do so.” Despite logistical challenges on the ground, the diplomat expressed hope that aid efforts could resume, but cautioned that UN agencies and their work should not be politicized. “More engagement from the UN in general would be beneficial,” she said. “The United Nations should not be politicized. They should concentrate on humanitarian and development assistance.”

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