Will Qatar’s investment in American politics pay off in Central Asia?

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America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has been bad for American taxpayers, and doubly bad for Afghans left behind in the race to get out.

A beneficiary was Qatarthe Persian Gulf emirate that has hosted the Taliban’s political bureau since 2013 and facilitated negotiations between the United States and the Taliban from 2019.

In November, the United States order Qatar as a “protective power” of American interests in Afghanistan. Qatar will represent US interests, provide consular services, monitor the condition of the abandoned embassy in Kabul and “facilitate the exit of Afghans on special US immigrant visas”.

The US decision was called “hiring an arsonist like [a] firefighter”, but it showed that Qatar knew “to be a player, you have to be a payer”.

Until recently, Qatar’s public profile was that of host of the FIFA World Cup 2022newest place on the Formula 1 circuitand a wannabe”Mecca of Middle Eastern art.” Why has the United States given its mandate to a government that supports the Muslim Brotherhood, harbors the leadership of the terrorist group Hamas and funds its operations in the Gaza Strip, and is a friend of the Iranian regime with which it shares the management of the the largest natural gas field in the world?

It has been said, “Some are born great, some attain greatness, and some have greatness imposed upon them.” In the case of Qatar, the “push” came in 2017 when it was under embargo by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt for their alleged support of terrorism and extremism, hosting Al Jazeera, the widely watched television network, supporting the Arab Spring movements, and be friends with Iran.

Qatar had to neutralize their opponents, so they set about making friends in the United States, the boss of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, all well represented in Washington . There was a lot on the board: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates passed close to four times as much in Washington as Qatar, and the American president donald trump initially sided with the Saudis and the Emiratis, who ransacked the image of Qatar in the media.

The sprawling Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Long before Qatar practiced checkbook diplomacy, it remembered to gift the “big guy” – the United States. In 1996, after the previous Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, took power, Qatar built the Al Udeid Airbase for the United States After an upsurge in anti-American sentiment in Saudi Arabia following the US attack on Iraq, US forces moved from Saudi Arabia to Al Udeid. Qatar’s hosting and improvements to the base, the headquarters of US combatant commanders in the Middle East, would be a concrete reminder of the bilateral relationship. After the US evacuation from Afghanistan, Al Udeid was the first stop for many Afghan refugees heading to the United States.

According to Sasapost, Qatar lobbying campaign after 2017 spent nearly $54 million (out of $75 million spent over the past decade), which says more about expectations in Washington than Doha. Qatar’s largesse included more than $1.2 million in contributions to more than 500 political campaigns and nearly $300,000 to political action committees according to the Center for International Policy.

from Qatar countryside consisted of several elements: raising awareness in the White House and on Capitol Hill, investment agreements with American states to bring together their delegations in Congress, and highlighting the human rights violations caused by the blockade. This last question was an opportunity for Qatar to explain how it had dealt with the accusations of exploitation of workers in construction projects for the World Cup.

In June 2018, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar called a truce in a battle over alleged subsidies received by Gulf airlines that violated bilateral Open Skies agreements with the United States. . The UAE and Qatar each likely believed that resolving the issue would strengthen their side in the blockade dispute, so an agreement was quickly tabled.

The money, local awareness, free military base, air war ceasefire, and Qatar’s hosting of the Taliban’s political office helped shape Qatar’s image favorably in Washington. So when the time came for the United States to deputize for a representative in Kabul, Qatar was likely the only candidate.

By accepting the US commission, Qatar placed itself in the middle of events in Central Asia and South Asia.

While the US Special Representative for Afghanistan will meet with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatari envoys will meet with Taliban leaders in Kabul. Qatar can take advantage of this presence time to pursue its own interests in the region. These interests will not necessarily be contrary to American desires, but the United States facilitates the influence of another state in a region that it sporadically engages, which will increase its future dependence on states with entry like , say, Qatar.

If Qatar can encourage the Taliban to facilitate trade between Central Asia and South Asia, it will boost July commercial transit agreement between Uzbekistan and Pakistan. An active commercial space centered on Afghanistan will also comfort Iran which already has an established relationship with Qatar due to their shared interest in the South Pars/North Field natural gas reserve.

China, which has not indicated it will return to Afghanistan, may reconsider and recognize the Taliban government if Qatar’s efforts lower the local temperature. If China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, India and Central Asia engage the Taliban government, the United States will be isolated as it scrambles to seek that base “beyond the world”. ‘horizon’ to strike targets in Afghanistan.

Qatar succeeded in Washington and used its isolation as an opportunity for influence in Central Asia. Now, can he keep his balance along the Silk Road?

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