The Afghan militant group shares a special place in the heart and land of Qatari Emir. The decade long bond between the two is based on the foundation of strong political, financial and ideological connection. Starting with political, Qatar houses the political office of the Taliban. It all began back in 2012 when the insurgent group announced that it would be opening its political office in the capital city of Qatar. The office was formed to establish a formal communication route between the Taliban and the West. The group’s overseas office was finally opened in Doha on June 2013.
The interesting aspect to it was that there were various nations including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia which offered space to open Taliban’s office but the latter chose Doha over the rest. In 2017, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US, and the UAE foreign ministry admitted to the same. Otaiba said that UAE put the offer along with a condition that Taliban had to first renounce its ties to al-Qaeda before opening an office in its country. According to Otaiba, the Taliban turned towards Qatar as it did not have any such demands.
After establishing the office, there was a surge in the violent activities of the Afghan insurgent group, in pursuit to gain control over entire Afghanistan. Taliban already holds control over more than half of the nation. In February 2017, Afghan President Ashraf Gani requested Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to shut down Taliban’s Doha office until the group ceased its violent activities in Afghanistan. Qatar paid no heed to the demands of the Afghan government.
On the contrary, besides the office, Qatar has been sheltering even the top leaders of the Taliban on its land.
Like various other Islamist rebel groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Hamas, Qatar has been a staunch supporter and financial caretaker of Taliban. The flow of funds gives Qatar power to influence the group’s decision, which Doha labels as ‘mediation and conflict resolution’. Since Doha’s generous bankrolling to the Islamic extremist have been questioned multiple times, the Gulf nation switched to another route of financing – making ransom payments to the terrorist groups.
In 2014, during the Syrian civil war, Islamist rebel group Jabhat Al Nusra kidnapped 13 Greek Christian nuns besides others. With Qatar’s ‘mediation’ about 153 women prisoners were exchanged for money, paid by Qatar. It is important to note here that al-Nusra, a jihadist rebel group is affiliated to al-Qaeda, which also survives over Qatar’s generosity. In 2015, a similar negotiation mechanism was followed to free a group of Lebanese Shia captured by Syrian extremists, in exchange for two Turkish pilots abducted in Lebanon.
Qatar has been following this strategy which leads to transfer of funds without maligning the country’s image. Yemen, torn apart by Qatari funded rebels, has officially blamed that ransom payment as a major source of income, helping the extremist groups in reviving their base.
One ideology which runs common between the other Islamic fundamentalist groups and Taliban is the dream of setting up an Islamic State governed by Sharia law, Sharia law is also the key source from where Qatari constitution inherits its laws. Qatar stands along with these extremist groups, including Taliban, – politically, financially and ideologically. It proves that Doha’s portrayal of being a center of peace talks for the world is nothing but a sham.