Qatar’s deputy prime minister visits Afghanistan as Taliban mark start of rule

French foreign minister calls new rulers liars and refuses to work with them as flag-raising ceremony marks start for Kabul government

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Qatar’s deputy prime minister paid a short visit to Afghanistan on Sunday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met senior officials of the new Afghan regime, a Taliban official said on Twitter.

The group released pictures of Sheikh Mohammed, who is also Qatar’s foreign minister, meeting new Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund.

Photographs of him with former Afghan president Hamid Karzai were circulated on social media.

Qatar has long sought to mediate on Afghanistan, hosting the Taliban’s talks with Washington under former president Donald Trump in its capital, Doha, and then with the now deposed Afghan government of president Ashraf Ghani.

It is also supporting tens of thousands of Afghans who were flown out in the final weeks of the US-led occupation who are waiting for permission to travel on to other nations.

No country has yet formally recognised the new Taliban government.

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani (centre) gets into a car after landing in Kabul. AFP

On Saturday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Taliban were dishonest and that Paris would not have any relationship with their newly formed government.

“They said they would let some foreigners and Afghans leave freely and [talked] of an inclusive and representative government, but they are lying,” he said on France 5 TV.

“France refuses to recognise or have any type of relationship with this government. We want actions from the Taliban and they will need some economic breathing space and international relations. It’s up to them.”

Paris has flown out about 3,000 people and had held technical talks with the Taliban to enable those departures.

Mr Le Drian, who is heading to Doha on Sunday to discuss future evacuations, said a few French citizens and several hundred Afghans with ties to France remained in Afghanistan.

Greece moves to block migration surge

On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country would try to block a potential wave of Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban rule.

He called for more EU help to tackle immigration from outside the bloc.

The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan has sparked fears of a repeat of the migration crisis of 2015, when about a million people, predominantly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, fled to the EU by crossing to Greece from Turkey. Since then, the bloc has fought over entry and resettlement rules, and has yet to agree a new migration pact.

“I will say it again: we cannot have European countries who believe that Greece should resolve this problem alone, and that it does not concern them at all because they can keep their borders tightly and hermetically shut,” Mr Mitsotakis said during a news conference.

Taliban flag flies over the Afghan presidential palace

The Taliban raised their flag over the Afghan presidential palace on Saturday, a spokesman said, as the US marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The white banner, emblazoned with a Quranic verse, was hoisted by Mr Akhund in a low-key ceremony, said Ahmadullah Muttaqi, multimedia branch chief of the Taliban’s cultural commission.

The flag raising marked the official start of the work of the new government, he said.

The Taliban’s interim government was unveiled late on Tuesday. Its composition, filled with the group’s top officials who led the 20-year war against the US-led international coalition, shocked the international community.

The all-male, all-Taliban government vowed to uphold power from a more moderate form of Islamist rule than when they were last in power, from 1996 to 2001.

In a post on Twitter, Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban president, Hamid Karzai, called for “peace and stability”.

He expressed the hope that the new caretaker Cabinet would become an “inclusive government that can be the real face of the whole Afghanistan”.

The Taliban victory has revived Al Qaeda, raising the spectre it will once again become the most feared terrorist group in the world, analysts have said.

Twenty years on from the 9/11 attacks, the extremists are attracting a flock of recruits who are flooding into Afghanistan after the retreat of America and its allies.

Updated: September 12, 2021, 6:00 PM