Qatar foreign minister in Afghanistan in first high-level visit

Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani is the highest-level foreign official to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban took power.

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani visited Kabul and met a number of officials in the Taliban's new government [File: Alexander Nemenov/Reuters]

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has visited Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul and met Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the acting Prime Minister in the Taliban’s new government.

He also met on Sunday with former President Hamid Karzai as well as Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the National Reconciliation Council as he encouraged Afghan parties and groups to engage in national reconciliation.

It is the highest-level visit by an official since the United States military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Al Thani met a number of officials in the new government, including the foreign minister and their deputy.

The officials discussed the current political situation and the efforts Qatar is currently making to support the Afghan people.

The Taliban released pictures of Al Thani meeting Akhund, while photographs of him with former Karzai were circulating on social media.

Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (C) is escorted to a car upon his arrival at the airport in Kabul [Karim Sahib/ AFP]

Qatar is considered one of the countries with the most influence over the Taliban, which took control of Afghanistan last month as US troops were preparing to finally withdraw from the country after 20 years.

It played a pivotal role in the massive US-led airlift of its own citizens, other Western nationals and Afghans who helped Western countries.

It is also supporting tens of thousands of Afghans who were evacuated in the final weeks of the US-led occupation as they are processed before heading to other nations.

Foreign donors led by the US provided more than 75 percent of the public expenditure for the Afghan government that crumbled as the US withdrew its troops after 20 years in the country.

President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is open to donating humanitarian aid but says that any direct economic lifeline, including unfreezing central bank assets, will be contingent on Taliban actions including allowing safe passage to people to leave.

The International Monetary Fund has also blocked the Taliban from accessing some $440m in new emergency reserves.

“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is simple: any legitimacy and support will have to be earned,” senior US diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the Security Council.

No country has yet formally recognised the new Taliban government – and only three did during the first rule of the group from 1996-2001.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies