The United States has tapped the Gulf country of Qatar to act as Washington's diplomatic representative to Afghanistan at a moment the Biden administration is still on the fence about the question of formally recognizing Taliban rule over the country. This also as Afghanistan's United Nations seat in New York is till being occupied by the former national government of Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country in August amid the rapid Taliban advance and as US forces withdrew. The US Embassy there was permanently shuttered last summer.
"The United States and Qatar have agreed that Doha will represent the diplomatic interests of the US in Afghanistan, the first official representation for the US in Kabul since its troop withdrawal in August," Al Jazeera reported.
"Qatar is a crucial partner in promoting regional stability," Secretary Blinken said in remarks while standing alongside Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at the State Dept. last Friday.
The strategic agreement will see the US be represented through a "US interests" section of the Qatari embassy in Kabul. Presumably in the future this may mean that actual American staff could potentially be present, but certainly not any US ambassador.
"It seems like the natural continuation of Qatar’s support for the United States in Afghanistan is to assume 'protecting power'. This will enable the United States to continue dialogue with the interim government," a Qatari official was quoted as saying of the strategic agreement.
Blinken described in his statements that "Qatar will establish a US interests section within its embassy in Afghanistan to provide certain consular services and monitor the condition and security of US diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan."
Crucially Qatar's intermediary efforts will include assisting the departure of any remaining American or dual US citizens or permanent residents from the country. This will also include facilitating the departure of Afghan translators and others who worked with the US military: "The second agreement formalizes our partnership with Qatar to facilitate the travel of Afghans with US Special Immigrant Visas," Blinken said, saying additionally the US is "grateful" for Qatar's help in this.
In case it wasn't already clear that Qatar is a US client regime (and host to the largest US military base in West Asia):— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 12, 2021
The Qatari monarchy just signed an agreement to act as the US "protecting power in Afghanistan,” letting the US use its Kabul embassyhttps://t.co/DjI2hW4XTU
As of late October, the US State Department estimated that 100 to 200 Americans remained in the war-torn country after the Aug.31 final US troop departure. But an Oct.26 Pentagon statement followed up by estimating a significantly higher 450 Americans still trapped.