August 15, 2022 | The Wall Street Journal

What Qatar Owes Afghanistan’s Refugees

Doha was instrumental in the Taliban’s return to power. It has the means to house many who fled.
August 15, 2022 | The Wall Street Journal

What Qatar Owes Afghanistan’s Refugees

Doha was instrumental in the Taliban’s return to power. It has the means to house many who fled.

Excerpt

A year after the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the refugee crisis is only worsening. By the end of last year, 3.5 million people had been displaced within Afghanistan’s borders, and more than two million had fled the country, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Washington bears significant responsibility for this, and it should do more to help.

But so should another American ally: Qatar. The tiny desert kingdom played a key role in facilitating the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan last year. In the early 2010s, senior Taliban leaders, with the support of the Qatari government, moved to the country’s capital, Doha, to establish an office to conduct talks with the Obama administration. Qatar’s acceptance of the Taliban was hardly a shock. The country has served as a haven for members of many extremists groups, including Hamasthe Muslim Brotherhood, and al Qaeda affiliate groups. This makes Qatar a de facto state sponsor of terrorism, but also affords it significant geopolitical power. A country smaller in area than Connecticut with fewer than 300,000 citizens, Qatar has a seat at the negotiating table in multiple Middle Eastern conflicts.

In this case, it got to lead talks with a global superpower. As the U.S. surge in Afghanistan faltered, the Obama administration sought a political settlement with the Taliban and ultimately to withdraw from the country. By January 2012, several Taliban negotiators moved to Qatar and initiated secret talks with U.S. and European officials under Qatari auspices. The Taliban were waging war against the U.S., and their partnership with al Qaeda was still in place. However bad it looked, the Obama administration wanted out. The Qataris were eager to make that happen.

Mr. Schanzer is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Roggio is a senior fellow at FDD and editor of its Long War Journal. Follow them on Twitter @JSchanzer and @billroggio. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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Issues:

Afghanistan Al Qaeda Arab Politics Gulf States Jihadism Military and Political Power The Long War