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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Qatar, EU agree to evacuate more at-risk people from Afghanistan


The Gulf state was able to carry out the largest airlift of people in history following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August.

Qatar and the EU agreed to continue to work together in evacuating people from Afghanistan, newly-appointed German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced on Monday.

This came during the monthly meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels, where members of the bloc met with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al‑Thani to discuss joint cooperation with the Gulf state in Afghanistan.

The attendance of the Qatari Foreign Minister at the EU Foreign Council
underlines we will continue to work together and at full speed to evacuate people from
Afghanistan. Qatar is making a remarkable contribution to this,” said Baerbock.

Countries rushed to evacuate Afghans and foreigners when the Taliban took over Kabul on 15 August following a series of rapid territorial gains in the country.

By 30 August this year, Germany managed to evacuate 5,347 people, including more than 4,100 Afghans.

Regional mediator Qatar played a more pivotal role as the events unfolded, carrying out the largest airlift of people in history. The Gulf state evacuated at least 70,000 Afghans and foreigners.

“At this point, I would therefore like to say once again how important it is that we work together under high pressure to do everything we can to evacuate people from Afghanistan,” said Baerbock.

The new German foreign minister noted that the participation of Sheikh Mohammed at the EU meeting “underlines how important humanitarian evacuation is in these times”.

“Qatar is really making a remarkable contribution here,” she said.

Baerbock’s predecessor Heiko Maas was in Doha on 31 August, the deadline for the foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

German FM in Qatar says recognition of Taliban ‘not priority’, urges engagement with group

During his visit, Qatar and Germany said they will continue to engage with the Taliban to ensure the establishment of an inclusive government. Germany also ruled out the immediate recognition of the Taliban.

More recently, Germany pledged to admit 25,000 Afghans considered to be at high risk from around 40,000 such people will be accepted by EU states.

German troops completed and finalised a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in June, ending the European country’s deadliest military mission since the second World War. Some 570 soldiers from Afghanistan were sent home.

Germany had the second largest troop presence in Afghanistan after the US, which deployed up to 150,000 soldiers over the past two decades. At least 59 German soldiers died during the war, mainly due to militant attacks or in combat.

During his visit to Qatar in September, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced that the bloc is preparing to open a mission in Doha next year.

Qatar’s efforts in Afghanistan

Over the past years, Qatar has played a key mediating role between all Afghan parties as well as the Taliban and the US. It has maintained its strategic role even after the collapse of the former Afghan government when the Taliban took over Kabul earlier this year.

Qatar has also agreed to relocate embassies belonging to several Western powers from Kabul to Doha in order to allow them to carry out their operations outside the country.

European countries and the US have held various meetings with the Taliban-led interim Afghan government in Doha, as the Gulf state continued to call on all countries to engage with the acting administration.

Following the departure of foreign troops, Qatar sent a technical team to the country in order to ensure Kabul airport is operational while enabling muchneeded aid to enter.

The Gulf state continues to facilitate evacuations and provide Afghanistan with humanitarian assistance.

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