CAIRO -- Qatar, which played a leading role in the historic Kabul airlift, has emerged as a key mediator in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US forces, engaging with Taliban leaders and supporting operations at Kabul airport.
This is not a new role for Qatar, which previously hosted the Taliban's talks with the United States and with the now deposed Afghan government.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani held talks in Afghanistan on Sunday (September 12), becoming the most senior official to visit the country since the Taliban's takeover on August 15, AFP reported.
The talks covered the "latest developments regarding the operation of Kabul airport and ensuring freedom of passage and travel for all", the ministry said.
Sheikh Mohammed on Monday said the Gulf state would "support all efforts that would achieve national reconciliation in Afghanistan".
"We believe that national reconciliation is the only safety valve for Afghanistan's stability in the future," he added.
He stressed that discussions about whether the Taliban should be recognised diplomatically were redundant and that the emphasis should be on engagement.
The Taliban have yet to receive formal recognition from any United Nations member state, including Qatar.
A pivotal role
The crisis in Afghanistan has affirmed that Qatar is capable of being "a focal point for surmounting international disputes at all levels", Qatari international affairs researcher Mahmoud Abdel Moneim said.
"This was evident in the Qatari role in the Afghan file, starting with the negotiations between the Afghans themselves and the negotiations between the Afghans and the United States," he said.
In its current role as a diplomatic mediator, he added, Doha has been maintaining the lines of communication with the Taliban.
This is in keeping with Qatar's efforts to pursue diplomacy and dialogue, Abdel Moneim said, as well as to assist with the humanitarian aspects of the evacuation.
Qatar helped with the evacuation of members of all nationalities after Kabul fell to the Taliban, and it provided humanitarian aid through Qatari institutions specialised in rescue and support missions, he said.
The US military completed its withdrawal and historic airlift of roughly 124,000 people from Kabul airport August 30.
Of those, more than 57,000 transited through Qatar.
"The Qatari role in Afghanistan is pivotal and crucial and must be acknowledged," Qatari military analyst Riyad al-Ali told Al-Mashareq.
"From a security and military standpoint, it serves as a safety valve to prevent matters from getting out of hand," he said.
"The aim is to establish peace, even at a minimum, for the Afghan people, who have suffered for decades from the scourge of wars," he said, and also to "keep the lines of communication open".
Strong ties between Gulf, US
With the conclusion of the airlift, the United States announced it was moving its Afghanistan diplomatic mission to Doha.
Several other countries followed suit, including Britain and the Netherlands.
The Taliban are well aware of the strategic ties and strong relationships that exist between the Gulf states and the United States, al-Ali said.
This means that by allowing Gulf states to get involved on a humanitarian and political level, the Taliban are "keeping the door open with the US administration so that things do not return to square one", he said.
That said, he added, "everything hinges on what happens in the coming days, [including] the form of the upcoming government, the form of rule".
Other Gulf states, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, also have been instrumental in the efforts to assist Afghan civilians, retired Emirati army officer Abdullah al-Ameri told Al-Mashareq.
Their intervention stems primarily from human solidarity, al-Ameri said.
"Evacuating civilians fleeing the spectre of death or punishment to safe areas is a very important humanitarian mission, as is providing food and medical aid," he added.
Both food and medical aid are scarce across Afghanistan, he said, and international organisations "are unable to act quickly because of the accelerating pace of political events and the wait for higher authorities to act".
"Away from the spotlight, the Afghan people today need urgent humanitarian intervention to secure the necessities of daily life," he said.