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Thursday, January 27, 2022

NATO, US Congress praise Qatar’s ‘bold leadership’ in Afghanistan airlift operation


At least 50% of the people evacuated by Qatar have reached their final destinations.

Several US Congress members and NATO lauded Qatar’s role in evacuating thousands of Afghans and foreigners from Kabul over the past two weeks following the Taliban’s takeover of the capital city on 15 August.

In a joint letter addressed to Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, four Congress members thanked the Gulf state for its efforts in carrying out one of the largest airlifts of people in history, saying Doha reduced “harm” through its “bold leadership”.

“The United States will not forget that Americans and our partners were escorted safely by the Qatari ambassador through the streets of Kabul. Nor will we soon forget the Qatari government’s willingness to quickly extend help to vulnerable Afghans that fought alongside our two countries in the struggle against terrorism,” read one part of the letter.

The Congress members—Tom Malinowski, Joe Wilson, Carolyn Maloney, and Andy Kim—also warned that those who remain in Afghanistan face risks under Taliban rule.

“Moments of crisis reveal true friends and lay the foundation for even deeper partnerships. We trust that the Qatari-American partnership will gain even more strength as we face this challenge together,” added the letter.

[Twitter / andreas_krieg]
On Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg held a phone call with Sheikh Tamim, thanking him for his efforts in ensuring people are safely evacuated.

“Spoke with His Highness Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to thank him for Qatar‘s leading role in facilitating the evacuation of many thousands of people from Afghanistan. Qatar is a key actor in the region, and is an increasingly important partner for NATO,” said Stoltenberg in a tweet.

Qatar has been receiving global praise for safely carrying out mass evacuations on such short notice, assisting the US in getting Americans and those who worked with US troops over the years safely out of the country.

The Gulf state has so far managed to evacuate more than 43,000 people from Afghanistan, with some temporarily placed in the US Al Udeid Air Base and others in temporary compounds facilitated by Qatar.

Speaking to Doha News, Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al Khater said that almost 50% of those who were temporarily being hosted in the Gulf state have reached their final destinations.

Read also: Turkey in meetings with Qatar, G7 to discuss Kabul airport as Biden warns of ‘high threats’

On the other hand, the US has received criticism for conditions at its Al Udeid Air Base, where there are limited facilities for the evacuees at the military post. Reports said fecal matter, lack of air conditioning and rat infestation were among some of the concerns at the base.

Since the reports first emerged, Qatar has stepped in to help while continuing to provide assistance in the Doha-run compounds.

A field hospital was set up by Qatar Red Crescent at Al Udeid, Qatar’s Ministry of Defence distributed around 50,000 meals per day and the Ministry of Health dedicated a hospital for cases that need to be hospitalised.

With time running out ahead of the 31 August deadline, Qatar’s foreign allies have been requesting that it steps in to provide further assistance.

Officials from Qatar, Turkey, and the G7 are reportedly meeting on Monday to discuss operations at Kabul’s airport post the 31 August withdrawal deadline, two sources familiar with the discussions told the New York Times [NYT].

The meeting comes at a critical point as US and foreign troops continue to pull out amid a looming deadline, with the Taliban threatening consequences if President Joe Biden extends the withdrawal operation.

It also comes amid major security threats at the Hamid Karzai Airport, which has already faced several attacks by the IS-affiliated Khorasan group, which the Taliban considers an enemy.

On Thursday, more than 100 Afghan civilians and US troops were killed in multiple explosions that rocked the facility.

The Taliban have since asked Turkey—which has been running the airport’s security for the past six years—for technical help to run the airport post deadline. A Taliban official also said the group is set to request similar technical assistance from Qatar to help operate the airport.

French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim on a possible role for Doha in organising further evacuations beyond the deadline.

Macron also confirmed that France was holding discussions with the Taliban about the situation in Afghanistan and the evacuation of more people following the group’s takeover of the country on August 15.

Details on the potential evacuations have yet to be confirmed, but they will be planned in coordination with Qatar and may involve airlift operations, according to the French president.

“We are in the process of holding discussions, which are still fragile and provisional, with the Taliban regarding humanitarian evacuations to repatriate Afghan men and women at risk,” said Macron.

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