The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which along with three other Arab states has boycotted Qatar for its alleged dealings with terrorist groups, had itself sought to host an office of the Afghan Taliban militant group back in 2011, a new report says.
In a Monday report, The New York Times said that it had obtained leaked emails from Emirati diplomats, including Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba, revealing Abu Dhabi’s strong desire to host a Taliban office in a presumed rivalry with Doha.
In one email, dated September 12, 2011, an Emirati diplomat signaled his country’s confusion over the United States’ stance on the desired location for the Taliban office.
“There is an article in the London Times that mentions US is backing setting up a Taliban embassy in Doha,” the diplomat, Mohamed Mahmoud al-Khaja, wrote to Jeffrey Feltman, the then-assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs.
“HH says that we were under the impression that Abu Dhabi was your first choice and this is what we were informed” by the United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Khaja said, using a shorthand for “His Highness” apparently to refer to Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In another email, dated January 2012, Emirati Ambassador al-Otaiba himself wrote to another American official, saying Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed had reacted angrily after Doha was chosen to host the office.
“I got an angry call from ABZ saying how come we weren’t told,” al-Otaiba wrote, referring to the Emirati diplomat by another shorthand.
Citing American officials, the Times alleged that Washington was supporting the establishment of the militant group’s headquarters in either of the states as part of “a broader American-led effort to facilitate peace talks in Afghanistan.”
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism and intervening in their affairs. Qatar rejects the accusations. The four countries later issued a list of “terrorist” individuals and entities they said were linked to Qatar.
The Emirates and Saudi Arabia were two of the only three states to endorse a Taliban regime that was in place in Afghanistan before a 2001 invasion of the country by the US.
Qatar hosted a Taliban office for a short period in 2013 reportedly on a request by the United States to facilitate peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government. The office was closed as the talks faced hurdles.
Categories: Asia-Middle East Relations