A senior Qatari official has revealed that Qatar it hosted the Taliban at the request of the US government.
Qatari foreign minister’s special envoy on counterterrorism, Mutlaq Al Qahtani said the US president, along with a number of Arab regimes, had been pressuring Doha over what they say is its support for extremist groups.
Al Qahtani’s statement came after US President Donald Trump accused Qatar of “historically” funding “terrorism at a very high level” – an allegation that Qatar has denied.
Press TV reports:
Mutlaq al-Qahtani, a senior counterterrorism adviser to Qatar’s foreign minister, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that Qatar hosted the Taliban “by request by the US government” and as part of Qatar’s “open-door policy, to facilitate talks, to mediate and to bring peace.”
The Taliban opened a “political office” in Qatar in 2013, but the Qatari government later shut it down. Taliban leaders are still said to be in Doha, however.
Qatar has come under intense pressure from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, the Maldives, and Egypt — all of which have broken off ties with Doha — and the US over accusations that the Qatari government sponsors extremist groups, including the Taliban.
A recent visit by US President Donald Trump to Riyadh, where he called on Arab countries to “isolate” governments supporting “terrorism” as well as Iran, is believed to have emboldened the Saudi rulers to pursue their policies more aggressively, including by assailing Qatar.
Those regional countries have suspended all land, air, and sea traffic with Qatar, ejected its diplomats, and ordered most Qatari citizens to leave.
Trump poured fuel on the fire of the dispute between Qatar and its adversaries by suggesting earlier in a tweet that his call in Riyadh for the isolation of terror sponsors was the reason why Qatar was being targeted.
This is while Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had just earlier attempted in a more diplomatically savvy manner to avoid a stirring up of tensions between the Arab countries involved in the dispute, calling for dialog to resolve the tensions.
Qahtani said in his Al Jazeera interview that Qatar “was facilitating the talks between the Americans, the Taliban, and the government of Afghanistan.”
The US has a military base in Qatar, which it says is crucial to its operations in the Middle East.
The diplomatic war on Qatar has been spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, which is itself known as the main sponsor of violent Wahhabi terrorists. Some analysts believe the Saudi anger at Qatar is rather because Doha acts more independently of Riyadh in its foreign policy, including in relations with Iran.
Saudi Arabia is also unnerved by Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, where a democratically-elected president affiliated with the movement was in 2013 toppled in a coup lauded by Riyadh.
Qatar has rejected the accusations that it supports extremism, and the country’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has said Doha would not “surrender” under political pressure.
Saudi ‘policy of domination will fail’
Separately, Qahtani told AFP that the diplomatic pressures and other restrictions on Qatar were in fact really meant to make Doha fall into line behind Saudi Arabia in Riyadh’s regional ambitions.
“I think this is not about counterterrorism, it’s not about terror financing,” he said. “I think it is about an orchestrated campaign against my country to pressure my country to change its active, independent foreign policy.”
“This policy of domination and control is not going to work,” Qahtani stressed.