Qatar is playing a pivotal role in ensuring the safe transfer and evacuation of Afghans and foreign nationals.
Governments, activists and public figures have praised Qatar for its key role in facilitating the safe evacuation of Afghan families and foreign nationals from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover last week.
Since then, Qatar has been relentlessly working with the UN, the US and other international partners to ensure Afghans and foreigners are evacuated from Kabul via the airport before boarding military planes to Doha and other capitals in the region.
The mass operation, described by US President Joe Biden as the largest airlift of people in recent history, has allowed thousands of families, students, journalists and diplomats to exit the war-torn country as US troops and NATO forces withdraw.
In a Fox News interview earlier this week, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani [MBA] said his country had taken “full responsibility” for evacuating Afghan civilians and foreigners from Afghanistan amid a Taliban takeover of the country.
“We are taking the full responsibility for them [evacuees], taking them to the airport and ensuring their safety throughout. We are trying to facilitate for other countries who don’t have access to reach people who are there on the ground,” said the foreign minister in a televised interview with the American outlet.
He added that Qatar is trying to facilitate the movement of civilians to the airport through the Gulf state’s embassy in Kabul. Earlier reports confirmed Doha’s ambassador to Kabul himself was personally accompanying convoys to the airport to ensure safe passage.
So far, Qatar has evacuated at least 7,000 people from Afghanistan with the number expected to increase over the next few days and weeks. In a separate interview with CNN, the foreign minister said evacuations are expected to take place for another week or two.
In Doha, hundreds of Afghans are being temporarily housed at compounds while awaiting their visa applications for their final destination.
Secretary-General of the UN António Guterres praised the Gulf state’s efforts in promoting dialogue and leading the peace process between the warring factions.
“The Secretary-General spoke today to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, his Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, to express his appreciation of Qatar’s efforts to promote dialogue between the Taliban and Afghan parties.
“The Secretary-General hopes that these efforts will lead to an inclusive and peaceful transition,” a UN statement said.
Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi also spoke to MBA to “thank him for reaffirming the support of his government to UNHCR and to humanitarian organisations, globally and in the current, volatile situation in Afghanistan.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel thanked Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani over a phone call for his country’s pivotal role in protecting German nationals being evacuated from the war-torn country.
Similarly, the German Foreign Ministry said Qatar played a “real and leading role” in safely evacuating German and foreign passengers from Kabul.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas personally thanked Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani for securing a safe transit route during the evacuation process.
International activists and public figures also took to Twitter to shed light on Qatar’s active and pivotal role in rescuing thousands.
“Grateful to see the government of Qatar helping so many people – students, women’s rights advocates, journalists and more – safely evacuate Afghanistan,” Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai tweeted on Wednesday.
Grateful to see the government of Qatar helping so many people – students, women's rights advocates, journalists and more – safely evacuate Afghanistan. I hope more countries will accelerate their efforts and support #AfghanRefugees.
— Malala (@Malala) August 24, 2021
“I hope more countries will accelerate their efforts and support Afghan refugees,” she added.
The advocate commented on the unravelling situation, warning Afghanistan is facing an alarming humanitarian crisis, especially when it comes to women.
Malala, the youngest Nobel Prize winner in history, was a victim of an assassination attempt by Pakistan’s Taliban militants in 2012.
US President Joe Biden expressed his appreciation for Qatar’s evacuation efforts of foreign personnel in Afghanistan in a phone call with Amir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Saturday, the White House announced.
“The President noted that this is the largest airlift of people in history and that it would not have been possible without the early support from Qatar to facilitate the transfer of thousands of people daily,” read the statement.
President Biden also thanked the Gulf state for hosting the intra-Afghan talks, which kicked off in September last year and brought together Afghanistan’s warring factions in Doha.
Earlier last week, US Secretary Anthony Blinken thanked Qatar’s Foreign Minister for his country’s support of US citizens in Kabul during the transfer to Doha
A Fox News reporter in Kabul also highlighted the Qataris role in the evacuation process, “The Qataris are playing such a critical role in these evacuations.”
— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 24, 2021
“They are not just providing evacuation flights for Americans, Afghan civilians, and a variety of other people who are stuck in Afghanistan, they are also acting as a critical link with the Taliban.
“A lot of the calm that you see behind me is a very limited calm but at this base it has to do with the efforts of Qatar.
“They are able to say for the Taliban to let these people get out, let the flights take off and if there’s any sort of attacks on our allies there will be consequences and they have this unique leverage in the region,” the reporter stated, live from the Kabul airport.
Clarissa Ward, CNN reporter who was covering the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan before she was transported to the Gulf state, also praised Qatar’s engagement.
“It has to be said that what the Qataris are doing and what they have been trying to do is incredible, they are completely inundated and overwhelmed they were originally asked to take several hundred, they got 600 in the first plane load, thousands since,” Ward noted.
“They have been trying to process them, they have been trying to get them housing, they have been trying to feed them to make sure they have medical attention, some people have diabetes and heart issues arriving without their proper medication,” she added.
Moreover, Bilal Sarwary, an Afghan journalist who escaped Afghanistan, said in a CNN interview “I want to say here that I am incredibly grateful to the state of Qatar and to the Qataris for evacuating at least 250 people from Kabul – the cream of the crop.”
Meanwhile, head of the political bureau of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar thanked Qatar for their “efforts and peaceful cooperation in solving Afghanistan’s problems,” according to Nadeeb Qatar.
“We hope that Qatar will continue its humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people,” he added.