Qatari prime minister opens up about talks with Taliban’s supreme leader

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani says he met with the Taliban’s reclusive supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, earlier this year and told him and other leaders that they need to cooperate with the world if they want to be part of the international community.

Speaking to CNN, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour, Al Thani said that the Taliban has agreed to move “things” at least on “smaller scales” such as women’s work.

Qatar’s prime minister visited Kandahar on 12 May 2023, where he met with the Taliban’s supreme leader. The meeting between Al Thani and Akhundzada is the first that the Taliban leader is known to have had with a foreign official.

“On my discussions in Kandahar we have been very clear. If you want to be a part of the international community, you need to cooperate with us. You need to work with us together in order to have your country as a Musim modern country, as Qatar, Qatar is a Muslim country, where women are allowed and proud. They are an active part of the community, they are leaders, ministers, ambassadors.

“We agreed with them that we need to at least on smaller scales to have things moving, re-allowing women to work again in the NGOs and delivering assistance to other families in Afghanistan,” he said.

Based in Kandahar, Hibatullah Akhundzada, is well-known for his repressive policies towards women. Following back-to-back edicts issued by his office, women and girls have been systematically stripped of their rights to an education and freedom. They are also prohibited from working for NGOs.

Al Thani went on to say that Muslim countries, including Qatar, need to talk to Akhundzada regarding the issue of women’s rights. “I think we have the responsibility as Muslim countries, as countries in the region to be vocal on that, to talk to him … we are the best people who can explain for them that we are all Muslim countries and we are acting like normal societies” he said.

Qatar has played an influential role in helping to resolve Afghanistan’s issues over the years. It helped broker a peace deal between the Taliban and the US on February 29, 2020, it hosted the Taliban’s political office in Doha for many years, it currently hosts numerous diplomatic missions to Afghanistan that have not reopened embassies in Kabul since the former government collapsed, and it has brokered countless meetings between Afghanistan’s stakeholders over the past two years.