President Donald Trump is urging that a Taliban diplomatic mission in Qatar be closed. He’s reported to be in talks with Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani to formally ask the government of Qatar to close the office.
The Taliban office, in Qatar, has been used as a hub for dialogue for more than six years but has failed to generate any headway. President Ghani, according to sources has not reached a final decision on the closure but is expected to agree.
The Afghan leadership sees the 36-strong informal delegation in Doha – which the Taliban calls its “political office” – as doing nothing to facilitate peace talks, merely conferring political legitimacy on a group Kabul views as no more than a tool of Pakistan.
Trump is said to be hostile to the maintenance of the Taliban office for several reasons. He portrays it as a failed initiative of his predecessor that has not led to the peace negotiations Barack Obama had hoped for. Meanwhile, the Saudi and Emirati monarchies have been pressing for its closure since its inception, seeing it as a symbol of Doha’s diplomatic prestige and US-Qatari ties.
It was this Taliban office in Doha where the Taliban secured the release of five detainees that were being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in an exchange for US serviceman Bowe Bergdahl.
The presence of this Taliban diplomatic mission has always been a thorn in the side of the Afghan government, not only because it gave the Taliban a degree of legitimacy in the diplomatic world but it left the door open for third-party governments to begin peace talks with the Taliban which the Afghan government insists, and rightfully so, that the process must go through Kabul.
The Saudis, Bahrain, Egypt, and UAE have stated for some time now that the government in Doha supports Iran and the Islamists and funds terrorism. Trump’s actions are seen as support for Saudi Arabia’s claims.
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