Qatar agrees to represent US interests in Afghanistan

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hold a news conference following the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Dialogue talks at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that the Gulf nation of Qatar has agreed to represent American interests in Afghanistan following the closure of the U.S. embassy in Kabul in late August.

Blinken said Qatar will serve as the “protecting power” for the United States in Taliban-run Afghanistan, a move that suggests the Biden administration has little confidence that it will re-open the embassy in the near future.

Qatar will establish a U.S. interests section within its own embassy in Kabul to provide consular and other services to American citizens in Afghanistan, Blinken said. Qatar will also assume responsibility for the security and protection of now-vacant U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Afghan capital.

The U.S. has numerous protecting power agreements in countries where it does not have diplomatic representation. Those notably include Switzerland in Iran, Sweden in North Korea and the Czech Republic in Syria.

Qatar has been a key player in discussions between the Taliban and the United States for many years. It hosted months of U.S.-Taliban peace talks and has since been critical to the evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan.

Of the more than 124,000 Americans, U.S. lawful permanent residents and at-risk Afghans that left Afghanistan, roughly half of them traveled through Qatar aboard U.S. military and Qatari charter flights, Blinken said.