Doha / Information Office / September 07
HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah praised the strong relations between the State of Qatar and the United States and their development and growth, stressing ongoing joint coordination between the two countries regarding Afghanistan, especially in the evacuation operations and the provision of technical support to Afghanistan, as well as coordinating the provision of humanitarian assistance.
This came in a press conference held Tuesday in the presence of HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, HE US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and HE US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani emphasized the strong strategic partnership relations linking the State of Qatar and the United States since decades, adding that these relations are distinguished by constant development and growth.
HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that his meeting with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense discussed issues of mutual concern, with a focus on the security and humanitarian developments in Afghanistan, including evacuation operations and the importance of continuing to open humanitarian corridors and allow freedom of movement and transit from Afghanistan. He urged the Taliban to facilitate these operations as soon as possible.
HE added that the discussions also tackled the issue of Kabul Airport and the operation and support services provided by the State of Qatar.
HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that the meeting also dealt with the Palestinian issue, and affirmed the importance of the continued humanitarian support for the Palestinian people, and the need for joint efforts to find a political settlement based on the two-state solutions and the Arab peace initiative which the State of Qatar always emphasize on in its positions.
The meeting also discussed the bilateral relations and looked forward a strategic dialogue which forms a platform for addressing various issues of mutual concern and discussing means of developing and promoting this partnership to broader horizons, HE added.
HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani thanked the United States for the support it provides to achieve security and stability in the region, stressing the partnership of the State of Qatar and the United States in this path and the continued support and consolidation of this partnership.
On the opening of Kabul airport, humanitarian aid and the difficulties that refugees face in obtaining entry visas, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs said: "We have sent a technical team to provide the necessary technical assistance to repair and restart the airport, and we have addressed many problems to make the equipment operational soon, but we have not yet reached an agreement regarding the management and operation of the airport. We continue to provide humanitarian support, and we have a flight almost every day to deliver humanitarian aid or receive aid from other countries in order to ensure the continued opening of the humanitarian corridor. Our task is focused on identifying the foreigners who want to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible."
HE urged the United Nations agencies and other governmental organizations to provide support and assistance to Afghanistan, noting that the State of Qatar provided some flights for UN officials to reach understandings with the Taliban to facilitate their operations there. He expressed his hope that the airport would be capable of operating for the transportation of passengers and humanitarian aid in the coming days.
Answering a question about the strength of the alliance between Qatar and the United States, especially after the sudden withdrawal of the American forces from Afghanistan, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs affirmed that the United States is the most important partner for Qatar, and the relationship and partnership between the two countries have been continued for decades. The United States is a strong partner in the security, economic and educational fields, and there is no link between what is happening in Afghanistan with how the United States views the region and its partnership in the region as a whole and in the Gulf in particular.
HE continued, "From our perspective, there was a 20-year war and it has ended, and we hope that there will be better prospects for Afghanistan. As facilitators, we have to help and support the post-war efforts so that Afghanistan returns to an inclusive, participatory country in a participatory and inclusive government that will be the basis for the renaissance of the Afghan people. We share the same goals and will continue this partnership across the region and beyond."
With regard to how Qatar deals with the evacuees without documents, HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that the State of Qatar has coordinated with the United States to receive the evacuees as a transit point. However, given the nature and timing of the evacuation process, a number of the evacuees did not have identification documents, but the State of Qatar has coordinated and cooperated with the United States in order to complete their evacuation.
He noted that the number of people who were evacuated through Qatar reached nearly 58,000 people, explaining that there are approximately 4,000 people currently going through the evacuation process. He noted that the entire process is carried out according to a prior agreement between Qatar and the United States, adding that the challenges which faced the evacuation are expected, given the nature and timing of these operations.
On his expectations about the readiness of Kabul Airport, HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that what has been fixed so far enables the airport to receive private chartered flights; noting that humanitarian relief flights are being used as a test of the airport's readiness. A number of criteria that must be met have been identified, specifically in terms of the security aspect in order to use the airport for passenger flights, which needs an agreement with the Taliban and is under constant negotiation.
On the opening of the airport to international and commercial flights, HE believed that in light of the current situation, the airport would be able to receive these flights in a limited period, taking into account the need to modernize some equipment to be able to operate as an international airport. He reiterated the importance of the security measures issue, noting that if these measures were put it into effect and an agreement on them was reached with the Taliban, these goals can be achieved very easily and as soon as possible.
HE US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his country's thanks and great gratitude for the efforts exerted by the State of Qatar in the evacuation of US and Afghan citizens, as well as citizens of friendly and partner countries who were at risk, and Qatar was their first stop, noting that the United States and those who were evacuated will not forget Qatar's favor in this process.
HE the State Secretary praised Qatar's response to the evacuation efforts, noting that many countries expressed their willingness to assist in the evacuation and transportation efforts from Afghanistan, but no one did more than Qatar in this regard.
He noted that more than 58 thousand people passed through Doha towards a new, more peaceful and stable life. Qatar welcomed them with sympathy and generosity. When any problem emerged, Qatar cooperated with hand in hand to deal with it; in addition to providing medical support that contributed to saving lives, including field medical services and the medical services at Al Wakra Hospital which was designated for the evacuees.
"You provided 10 thousand meals three times a day to Al-Udeid camp. You also established the coordination cell in Al-Sailiya camp to contribute and help organize the efforts of all non-governmental organizations that send aid, along with providing 20 flights via Qatar Airways to transport thousands of individuals to the United States and Germany, and you offered 20 more trips. We thank your tremendous support that did not stop in very challenging circumstances, and this is a testimony to the State of Qatar and its leadership," HE the US Secretary of State stressed.
HE the US State Secretary praised the Qatari diplomacy, noting the role of the State of Qatar in ending the war and facilitating the talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government through the efforts it has made over many years. He noted that it is not a coincidence that the United States transferred its diplomatic work from Afghanistan to Doha, expressing confidence that the State of Qatar will continue to work side by side with the United States. "We appreciate the diplomacy of the State of Qatar and its endeavor to maintain an open corridor from Afghanistan to the rest of the countries, and we value the efforts made by Qatar and Turkey to reopen Kabul Airport," he added.
On the progress of the evacuation efforts, HE affirmed the success of the evacuation operations, noting that thousands of American and Afghan citizens were successfully evacuated through special flights. He stressed that efforts are continuing to arrange other flights and remove any obstacles to ensure that these flights are organized so that you can leave Afghanistan safely. At the same time, he noted that the lack of teams on the ground hinders the process of verifying the accuracy of passenger lists and securing flights, describing this matter as a challenge that requires a huge amount of diplomatic efforts to overcome.
He described the evacuation operations as one of the most complex operations in recent memory, expressing his confidence that the State of Qatar's cooperation with the United States in this process will contribute to its success.
He noted that the friendly relations between the two countries are in their strongest form, stressing that the two countries continue their close cooperation and multidimensional dialogue, which includes trade, investment, defense, combating terrorism, human rights, cultural exchange and providing humanitarian aid.
He noted that the evacuation and transport operations have further strengthened the relationship between the two countries, which will have a positive impact on the bilateral relations in various fields in the coming months and years.
On the number of US citizens who are still in Afghanistan, HE the US Secretary of State believed that the number of people with American citizenship who are in Afghanistan is currently within 100. "Although we have sent messages to the citizens registered at the embassy, encouraging and urging them to leave Afghanistan due to the security situation, however, with the start of the evacuation operations that began in August, there were 6 thousand American citizens in Afghanistan, and they were almost all transferred during the two weeks of evacuation. However, some did not make the decision to leave or were unable to take it, and we are in direct contact with them and we have a team dedicated to dealing with them and managing their cases to ensure that they can leave if they wish to do so. We commit the Taliban to what they have committed themselves to by providing a safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan, whether American citizens or the Afghans who worked with us, whether those who obtained an exit permission or those at risk. The international community looks forward to the Taliban's adherence to this pledge," he said.
For his part, HE US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expressed thanks and gratitude for the efforts made by the State of Qatar and its support in the evacuation operations from Afghanistan for the US citizens, allies and partners, and Afghan citizens at risk.
HE the US Defense Secretary described the evacuation operations as the largest in history, during which the State of Qatar, through the Qatar Armed Forces in cooperation with its partners, transported more than 124,000 people to safety, stressing that this achievement would not have been achieved without Qatar's support and assistance, and that Qatar contributed to saving thousands of lives.
He noted continued cooperation between the State of Qatar and the United States at many levels, indicating that there are common priorities between the two countries.
He expressed his country's gratitude for the State of Qatar's continued hosting of the US forces to ensure their presence in a strategic location "to support critical missions in the territory".
"The relations of the United States are not limited to defense matters, but go deeper than that, as we work with our regional partners towards several common goals with the aim of reducing conflicts, providing humanitarian assistance to civilians who need it most, and reducing tensions," he continued.
"We believe that this is the right way to ensure regional security and stability, and we recognize that Qatar stands with us in promoting security and peace. Qatar has provided humanitarian aid from Yemen to Gaza and has facilitated the Afghan peace negotiations," he added.
On the success of the sudden withdrawal of the US armed forces from Afghanistan, HE US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, "What happened in the post-withdrawal phase is something we will study carefully over the coming weeks and months. I will not try to describe it, but I am proud of the wonderful work done by our brave men from the armed forces in evacuating 124,000 from Kabul airport in a very short period of time under difficult and dangerous conditions."
On the threats that the United States received from the Taliban in the past period and how to deal with them after the withdrawal of the US military and intelligence forces from Afghanistan, the US Secretary of Defense indicated that it is difficult to identify any threat coming out of the region, "but we are committed not to allow any threat to evolve, thus creating big challenges for us in the homeland. We have strong capabilities and strive to develop ourselves on a daily basis. We have accomplished a lot during the past twenty years in terms of developing our capabilities. There is no spot on the earth that we cannot reach if we want to, and we have shown this over and over again, and I repeat that our work is to remain attentive and to continue in developing our capabilities."