Qatar Offers Bridge to Taliban to Fulfill Biden's 'No One Behind' Promise

The U.S. had managed to evacuate some 6,000 Americans by the time the last C-17 military transport took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul shortly before midnight on August 30.

Since that time, the U.S. State Department has helped to facilitate the departure of roughly 380 American citizens from Afghanistan, according to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

He said the U.S. is now prepared to finish the job.

"As of November 10th," Blinken said, "all U.S. citizens who have requested assistance from the U.S. government to depart Afghanistan, who we've identified as prepared to depart and have the necessary travel documents, have been offered the opportunity to do so."

With no embassy in Kabul to process the evacuees, the U.S. has been forced to turn to its allies for assistance.

Qatar has answered the call.

As reported in Newsweek, Blinken appeared in a joint news conference Friday with Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani to announce that Qatar's embassy in Kabul will house a U.S. "interests section" that will serve as an intermediary between the U.S. and the Taliban.

An important part of those communications will be to expedite the departure of those Americans left in Afghanistan who want to leave. Of the several hundred Americans remaining, about 200 are estimated to be seeking evacuation.

In Friday's press conference, Blinken said that every identified American in Afghanistan had been contacted and offered the chance to come back home.

While attempting to fulfill President Biden's promise to leave "no one behind," Blinken and the rest of the State Department are being pressured by Republicans to bring home all Americans left in the country after chaotic evacuations left hundreds stranded in late August.

Due to limited direct communications with the Taliban government, the State Department has sparse information on the exact whereabouts of Americans still in Afghanistan. It continues to receive requests from citizens and allies whose presence in the country was previously unknown, hinting at the disparate access to communications throughout the country.

Blinken said that the situations of the remaining Americans are subject to change, further complicating the task of the State Department.

"Some people who have identified as Americans say nonetheless they don't want to leave because their families, extended families, are in Afghanistan and they want to continue to stay there," Blinken said. "Others change their minds and have told us they don't want to leave and then decide that they do want to leave, so that number changes as well. And still others since August 31st have come forward to identify themselves as Americans."

These factors present unique challenges for a Department looking to return as many Americans home as possible. Despite these obstacles, however, Blinken remains steadfast in his promise to return all Americans who want to come home.

Strengthening relationships with foreign partners like Qatar may be essential to fulfilling that promise.

In Friday's joint press conference, Blinken praised Qatar's role in handling the aftermath of the Afghan government's collapse and commended their continued support in facilitating evacuations.

"Events in Afghanistan have reinforced our partnership," he said. "Many countries have stepped up to help the evacuation and relocation efforts in Afghanistan, but no country has done more than Qatar."

A key ally in the region, Qatar has been a valuable mediator for communication between the Taliban and the United States, a role that must continue if the U.S. hopes to sustain its identification and evacuation efforts.

Commenting on this new alliance, Al-Thani said, "the strategic dialogue today will reaffirm our determination to deepen our cooperation in various fields, including strengthening our defense and security partnership."

Maintaining these open lines of communication is essential to identifying, relocating and defending any Americans still left in Afghanistan.

"We've been taking out Afghan families and U.S. service members all along, and that will continue," Blinken said. "And as we identify people who are in Afghanistan, including family members of service members who remain there and wish to leave, we will do everything we can to get them out."

Afghanistan airport
Evacuees from Afghanistan arrive at Hamad International Airport in Qatar's capital Doha on September 9 on the first flight carrying foreigners out of the Afghan capital after the conclusion of the U.S. withdrawal in August. Around 100 passengers including Americans arrived in Doha after flying from Kabul airport. KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images