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Afghan crisis raises Qatari influence on global stage

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A Qatar Airways aircraft prepares for take off from Afghanistan's capital Kabul, a day before Taliban fighters entered the city. AFP/File

Afghan crisis raises Qatari influence on global stage

Political leaders have flocked to Doha and some countries have moved their Kabul embassies to Qatar, all praising their host for its key role in the airlift out of the Afghan capital.

Tiny Qatar has seized the moment, cementing its outsize global influence and reputation as a neutral mediator after winning the trust of all sides in Afghanistan's forever war.

Qatar invited the Taliban to open a political office in capital Doha in 2013, with then-US president Barack Obama's blessing as conflict in Afghanistan raged.

It went on to host talks between Washington and the Taliban that concluded in 2020 with a troop withdrawal agreement, followed by direct negotiations between the former insurgents and Afghan government.

Doha's long-standing hotline to the Taliban ultimately helped Qatar burst onto the world stage as the lynchpin of efforts to evacuate desperate Afghans and foreigners – and now the push to reopen Kabul airport.

Colin Clarke, senior research fellow at The Soufan Center, said Qatar “has grown into the Geneva of the Middle East, a place where warring parties can meet on neutral territory".

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