Protests against the Taliban rule broke out on Wednesday as more attempt to flee Afghanistan.
The UN’s High Commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi thanked Qatar for the country’s ongoing global efforts to assist humanitarian crises.
The comments were made in a phone call between Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Grandi on Wednesday, in which the officials discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan.
I spoke tonight to @MBA_AlThani_ Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar 🇶🇦 and wish to thank him for reaffirming the support of his government to UNHCR and to humanitarian organizations, globally and in the current, volatile situation in Afghanistan.
— Filippo Grandi (@FilippoGrandi) August 18, 2021
“I spoke tonight to @MBA_AlThani_ Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar 🇶🇦 and wish to thank him for reaffirming the support of his government to UNHCR and to humanitarian organizations, globally and in the current, volatile situation in Afghanistan,” Grandi said in a tweet.
In a statement posed on Twitter, the Qatari official also confirmed the call.
“Discussed in call with his excellency Filippo Grandi the affairs of Afghan refugees in light of the rapid changes in Afghanistan. We appreciate the efforts made by the UNHCR over the past 70 years, and count on their pivotal role in facing humanitarian crises,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
The call comes amid scenes of yet another refugee crisis, this time triggered by recent political developments in Afghanistan where the Taliban has taken hold of the country.
Horrifying scenes of people latching onto aircrafts at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport earlier this week spiked global concerns over the fate of Afghans desperate to flee.
Among those were images of a C-17 military plane that departed from Afghanistan and landed in Qatar carrying 640 of Afghans. The aircraft was built to carry just 134 passengers.
Washington officials confirmed that human remains were found inside one of the plane’s wheels upon its arrival in Doha on Tuesday, confirming an investigation is now underway.
“The unusually high number of passengers was the result of a dynamic security environment that necessitated quick decision making by the crew which ultimately ensured these passengers were quickly taken outside the country,” a US official told Reuters.
In light of the recent events, Qatar was the only Gulf state to call for a “safe and orderly” departure for Afghans and foreign nationals. All evacuees being transported by US forces from Afghanistan, including embassy staff, diplomats and Afghans who worked with the US over the years, are currently being temporarily hosted in Qatar.
Protests and casualties
Meanwhile in Afghanistan at least 40 casualties have been reported since Monday. These include fatalities and serious injuries from shootings, stampedes as well as incidents in which people were seen falling from the US evacuation aircraft.
Some families have reported family members missing since the airport incident.
The latest images to come out of Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar where hundreds of Afghans, who worked with US forces, are currently being housed
— Doha News (@dohanews) August 19, 2021
In recent days, defiant groups of Afghans have taken to the streets while raising the country’s national flag in an apparent protest against Taliban rule.
Violence was reported in several provinces as clashes erupted between Taliban members and demonstrators in areas including Nangarhar and Khost.
According to TOLOnews, one protester was reportedly killed in Jalalabad city, the centre of Nangarhar province.
“We hoisted our flag in the centre of the bazaar, our national flag is our national identity,” said Tahzibullah, a resident in Kunar.
The flag was removed by the Taliban after fighters took control of the country on Sunday, replacing it with their own white flag.
Despite the Taliban’s promises to not attack civilians, the group has launched a crackdown on people who they believed worked with the US and NATO forces and threatened to kill or arrest their family members if they are not found, according to a confidential UN document.
The document said the insurgent group has a list of targets wanted for questioning and punishment.
Ghani in the UAE
Meanwhile, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who fled to Tajikistan hours as the Taliban captured Kabul, has now moved to the United Arab Emirates, where he was welcomed “on humanitarian grounds”.
Reports said he left the country with bags filled with cash, though the former Afghan president has denied those claims in a video statement uploaded onto his Facebook account.
“I left with just a waistcoat and some clothes. The personality assassination against me has been ongoing, saying that I have taken money with me,” Ghani claimed in the video.
Ghani’s exile in the UAE comes as no surprise.
“I was not surprised that the UAE is hosting Ghani and his family since it has a sizeable Afghan expat community most of whom are opposed to the Taliban. Moreover, the UAE has played a critical role in facilitating corruption in Afghanistan by allowing ill-gotten wealth,” Dr. Farhan Chak, Associate Professor of Political Science at Qatar University told Doha News.
TOLOnews reported on Wednesday that the Afghan embassy in Tajikistan asked Interpol to detain the former president, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib and the head of the president’s administrative office, Fazal Mahmood Fazli on charges of stealing public wealth.
Kabul’s ambassador to Tajikistan Mohammad Zahir Aghbar had accused Ghani of stealing $169 million from state funds, calling his departure “a betrayal of the state and the nation”.
Dr. Chak said: “Much of the trillions of dollars that was barely used for infrastructure development in Afghanistan has ended on in UAE banks…in this line, there is a common Afghan understanding that all corrupt wealth related to Afghanistan is in the UAE”.
Since Qatar started hosting intra-Afghan talks, the UAE has appeared to undermine political stability in Kabul and has reportedly attempted to sabotage the peace process.
Qatar opened the Taliban’s political office in 2013 with the aim to hold negotiations to reach peace in Afghanistan. Since then, the UAE government has reportedly tried to encourage the Taliban to move its political office to Abu Dhabi, but failed.
“The UAE has no serious ties with the Taliban. The UAE wants to develop these ties but the Taliban is not stupid, they understand the complex broader partnerships that are being played out,” said Dr. Chak, adding that the UAE has been trying to remain relevant in the talks.
When Washington and the Taliban signed the “historic” February accords in 2020 in Doha, the news was met with immediate criticism by UAE officials.
Dubai-based professor of politics and former UAE government advisor, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla at the time said the agreement should have been sponsored by another Gulf state other than Qatar.
“The UAE’s motivations out of the crisis in Afghanistan is purely part of the role it plays in the complex broader global competition/rivalry that pits China and its allies on one side, and the US and its allies on another,” noted Dr. Chak.