Qatar hosting Taliban on US’s request

Mutlaq al-Qahtani, a senior counter-terrorism adviser to Qatar’s foreign minister, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that Qatar was hosting 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 2003.

Qatar has come under intense pressure by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, the Maldives, and Egypt — all of which have broken off ties to 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, a political novice who is believed to have limited knowledge of world affairs, 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 now being targeted.

This is while Trump’s own 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 is widely believed to have 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 pursuing its foreign policy, including partially in relations with Iran.

Saudi Arabia also claims that it is unnerved by Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, where a democratically-elected president affiliated with the Brotherhood 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.

Iran has called for dialog among the disputing Arab countries. So has Turkey, which has also taken a strong stance in support of Doha.

Kuwait and Oman have stayed impartial, trying to broker a resolution of the dispute.