Message from Qatar’s Emir to the Taliban’s Emir; Sources Reject ‘Supreme Leader’ Meeting

By: Amin Kawa

Qatar played a significant role in facilitating the signing of the Doha Agreement between the United States and the Taliban. As the capital of Qatar, Doha served as the Taliban’s diplomatic center for over two years and recently hosted a United Nations meeting attended by representatives from over 20 countries worldwide to address the Afghanistan issue. Despite extensive efforts and coordination with supporting countries, the international community has not recognized the Taliban as a legitimate government for the past 21 months. During a visit to Afghanistan, the Prime Minister of Qatar also visited the Taliban’s leadership center in the province of Kandahar, where analysts believe he delivered an important message to the supreme leader of the Taliban. This message is likely related to the outcomes of the recent United Nations meeting held in Qatar about ten days ago. It is worth noting that the supreme leader of the Taliban has not held any official meetings with foreign officials in the past two years, and representatives of countries and the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations have been unable to directly deliver their messages to him. While some sources among political figures in the province of Kandahar suggest a meeting between the supreme leader of the Taliban and the Qatari official, local sources deny that the “Supreme Leader” met with the Prime Minister of Qatar. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar has not addressed this matter in its statement.

Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar made history as the first high-ranking foreign official to visit Afghanistan. On Friday, May 12, he journeyed to the Taliban’s leadership center in Kandahar province to convey a message from his Emir to the supreme leader of the Taliban. Accompanying him on this trip was Abdullah Al-Khalifa, the head of Qatar’s intelligence. The Taliban spokespersons have released images showcasing meetings between these Qatari officials and Mohammad Hasan Akhund, the acting prime minister, and Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Taliban group.

On Friday, May 12, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, tweeted that the acting prime minister of the Taliban group engaged in discussions with the Prime Minister of Qatar to strengthen relations and foster trust. Mujahid’s tweet indicated that Qatari officials and the Taliban also explored areas of collaboration, including education, healthcare, and the economy. The Taliban’s statement further revealed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar conveyed a message from the Emir of Qatar to the Taliban’s leaders. The acting Prime Minister of the Taliban urged Qatar to assume a more significant role in fostering trust between Afghanistan and the international community. While it remains uncertain whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar met with Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the Taliban, sources indicate that he did not have a meeting with the “Supreme Leader.”

On Friday, May 12, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar released a statement confirming the meeting between the Prime Minister of Qatar and Mohammad Hasan Akhund, the acting Prime Minister of the Taliban, in the province of Kandahar. The statement highlighted that the meeting focused on discussing methods to assist Afghanistan and alleviate the prevailing crisis, particularly in humanitarian and economic spheres. Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar expressed its commitment to unwaveringly support all sectors of the Afghan population, striving to achieve security, stability, well-being, and a dignified standard of living.

While Qatar hosted an important international meeting led by the United Nations on May 1 and 2 this year, a high-ranking Qatari official embarked on a journey to the province of Kandahar. This official’s visit is believed to be a result of Qatar’s influential position with the Taliban and the available opportunities it presents. Amina J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, mentioned in a speech at Princeton University that discussions were underway regarding the recognition of the Taliban during the Doha meeting. However, Tomas Niklasson, the EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan, clarified that no agreement was reached in the Doha meeting regarding conditions for recognizing the Taliban. Analysts speculate that the Qatari official carried a message from the international community to the Taliban, leveraging Qatar’s influence over the group.

Taliban’s indifference to the demands of the world

In a report, the United Nations has focused on the human rights situation under the control of the Taliban. The report presents documented cases of fundamental rights deprivation, with a particular emphasis on Afghan citizens, especially women. It unequivocally states, “The people of Afghanistan, including women and girls, are being deprived of their full human rights.” Similarly, the annual report from the United States Department of State highlights various human rights violations committed by the Taliban in 2022. Specifically, the report describes the Taliban’s treatment of women as repressive, discriminatory, and ruthlessly oppressive.

Multiple reports by Amnesty International have highlighted widespread human rights violations by the Taliban. One report indicates that the Taliban has imposed restrictions on women while suppressing media freedom and freedom of expression. The organization points out that the Taliban continues to engage in arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and detention of opponents. Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, has also released a condensed version of his report expressing deep concern over the Taliban’s discrimination against women and girls, the systematic suppression of women and girls, and the persistent and severe human rights situation. However, the Taliban has continued to extensively violate human rights, particularly by depriving women’s rights, suppressing critics and political opponents, and restricting and censoring the media. The group describes itself as inclusive and demands that the world refrain from interfering in its internal affairs. The international community has conditioned the recognition of this group on respect for human rights and the establishment of an inclusive government.

Reaction of Women and Former Government Officials to the Prime Minister of Qatar’s Visit to Kandahar

Over the past 21 months, women and girls have continuously protested against the “discriminatory” policies of the Taliban while urging the international community to withhold recognition of this group. They have specifically appealed to neighbouring countries and governments engaged with the Taliban, asking them to abstain from lobbying for the group. These women accuse the government of Qatar of aiding the Taliban in their takeover of Afghanistan.

Shamsia (pseudonym), one of the protesting women, who prefers not to be named in this report due to serious security threats, expressed her views to the Hasht-e Subh Daily. She said, “The visit of the Prime Minister of Qatar to the province of Kandahar demonstrates that the Taliban disregard even those who facilitated their rise to power. Without Qatar creating a favorable environment for the Taliban and granting them an international platform, their ascent to power wouldn’t have been so effortless. Qatar now bears the responsibility of whitewashing this group’s crimes of the past two years, just as it concealed their crimes throughout the last twenty years.”

In a tweet, Fazl Ahmad Manawi, the former Minister of Justice, emphasized that the Taliban show no regard for Qatar and other countries that aided their ascension to power. He further stated, “Senior Qatari political and intelligence officials, who acted as the United States assistants in Afghan affairs, have traveled to the province of Kandahar to deliver the message of the United States and the international community to the Taliban. The deadline has elapsed, and the Taliban have failed to fulfill any of their commitments, including severing ties with other terrorist groups, just as we had previously warned.”

Qatar’s Use of Support for the Taliban as a Tool in the International Order

According to certain citizens and former government officials, Qatar is utilizing its support for the Taliban, the most radical religious group, as a strategic tool in the global arena. They believe that Qatar is bolstering fundamentalism in Afghanistan while projecting a modern image of itself to the Western world. Through the sharing of images depicting their Prime Minister’s visits to both Britain and Kandahar, they argue that Qatar aims to convey two messages: moderation for themselves and fundamentalism for Afghanistan.

Abdullah Khanjani, the Deputy State Minister for Peace and coordinator of the former government negotiating team in the Doha Talks has criticized the Prime Minister of Qatar’s visit to Afghanistan while under Taliban control, suggesting that it implicitly supports radicalism. In a tweet, he expressed, “Qatar devotes considerable energy and political resources to fostering radical actors as willing allies on a global level. This strategy seeks to garner Western support for its geopolitical and global ambitions.”

He regards Qatar’s support for the Taliban as detrimental to reconstruction and diversity in the region. In a separate tweet, this former government official emphasizes, “The consequences for reconstruction and diversity in the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia are significant. It is crucial to mobilize larger actors to effectively counteract this endeavor. China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey should restrain this influential force.”

Jamshid Yama Amiri, an Afghan reporter, has tweeted pictures of the two trips made by these Qatari officials. Sharing images of the Prime Minister of Qatar’s visit to Britain, he commented, “Qatar’s leader and his wife attended the coronation ceremony of the British king, but since 2010, Qatar has exerted its full influence to establish a regressive, anti-women, anti-freedom, and anti-civilization regime in our country. They have succeeded in doing so, and now they seek to legitimize this backward and oppressive regime.”

In the past two years, the Taliban has taken control of Afghanistan, disregarding the rule of law. While seeking international legitimacy, the group has ignored the collective will of the Afghan people and instead justifies its rule based on religious sanctity. They have abolished the Parliament as the highest legislative body and invalidated all laws of the previous government. Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the Taliban, has declared that all laws in Afghanistan should be nullified, asserting that only the “Divine Law” is enforceable under their rule. Following this ideology, the Taliban has systematically marginalized women from all aspects of public life and brutally suppressed dissenting voices.