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Qatar denounces deadly Kabul bombing

Qatar’s foreign ministry has condemned as going against “all ethnical principles and heavenly religions” a spate of suicide bombings in the Afghan capital of Kabul yesterday.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the coordinated attack, which killed at least 80 people and wounded hundreds more. It happened during a demonstration by Afghanistan’s Shia minority group for electricity in their area. Qatar’s statement reiterated that the country “rejects violence and extremism, whatever the motives and causes.”

Former Taliban office in Doha.

Salman Siddiqui/Twitter

Former Taliban office in Doha.

Representatives of the Taliban’s “political office” in Qatar will attend a conference here this weekend about resolving the conflict in Afghanistan.

In a statement on Friday, the group said it was invited to participate by the Pugwash Council, a Nobel peace-prize winning group that works internationally to resolve various conflicts.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Taliban said that it would use the conference to “relay the legal demands of our nation and our just policy to the world directly.”

Qatar is not involved in any formal talks to resolve the conflict between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but it does appear to have an open channel with the group.

Qatar's Emir

Georgetown University

Qatar’s Emir

Earlier this month, Canada thanked the Emir for negotiating the release of a Toronto man kidnapped and held in Afghanistan for more than five years.

Members of the Taliban have lived in Qatar for several years and briefly opened a political office in Dafna in 2013, but closed it less than a week later.

Informal talks

The Pugwash Council also held a session in Qatar on the same subject last May.

However, at that meeting both Taliban officials and important government figures attended, though all in an informal capacity.

During this weekend’s session, no members of the Afghan government are expected to be present, AP reports.

The WSJ added that President Ashraf Ghani’s administration sees such events as a distraction from formal negotiations and that the conference would give the Taliban “undue legitimacy.”



Private Sector Qatar

Five Taliban members detained at the American prison Guantanamo Bay are being remanded into the custody of Qatar following the negotiated release of a US soldier held captive in Afghanistan.

The idea of sending the five prisoners to live here has been discussed for more than two years.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl


In 2012, Reuters reported that the Taliban members were among the most dangerous of the renaming prisoners in Cuba, but stated that their transfer was considered a “necessary evil” to get Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl home.

The 28-year-old soldier had been held prisoner for nearly five years, and was the only American POW there. Following his release today, the New York Times reports him as being in good condition and able to walk.

The newspaper added that Qatar officials would accompany the Taliban members back to Doha, “where they will be subject to security restrictions, including a one-year travel ban.”

In a statement, US Secretary of State John Kerry praised Qatar, home to the largest US air base in the Middle East, for brokering the prisoner exchange:

“I extend my personal gratitude to the Government of Qatar – and especially to the Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani – who played such an instrumental role in returning Sergeant Bergdahl home.

We work every day with Qatar on a range of critical foreign policy priorities. This effort – one that was personally so close to our hearts here – exemplifies how vital our partnership with Qatar is and will remain.”

Taliban-Qatar relations

Other Taliban members have already been living in Qatar for years. Last summer, the group actually opened a political office in Dafna, which was reportedly supposed to help negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government and the US.

Taliban office

Salman Siddiqui/Twitter

But the headquarters closed less than a week later after drawing the fire of President Hamad Karzai in Kabul. He took offense to the raising of a flag and installation of a placard that named the building the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” – the former name of the country when it was under Taliban rule.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, a US official said the country hopes the prisoner transfer will help with future negotiations:

“This transfer is part of a larger reconciliation framework,” said the senior defense official. “We have always maintained that reconciliation was the ultimate goal here.”

The five Taliban officials will not be the first Guantanamo prisoners to move to Doha.

Sami Al Hajj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who was detained shortly after the attacks on the US on Sept. 11, 2001, was cleared and released in 2008. He later received a hero’s welcome in Doha and is now head of Al Jazeera’s Public Liberties and Human Rights Desk.