After more than eighteen years of war in Afghanistan, on 29 February 2020, the United States and Taliban signed a peace deal which was the first step in ending the war. The agreement was signed in the Qatari capital Doha between Talibani political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
Speaking prior to the signing, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his appreciation for Qatar’s hosting of talks which led to the agreement and said "So the nation of Qatar has been an enormously important partner to get us to this very moment. When we have hit bumps in the road, they have helped smooth them out. They have agreed to host a significant piece of the conversations that have taken place that have built out on the set of agreements. We appreciate that and we thank them."
Head of the Political Office of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar expressed gratitude to the Emir of Qatar and the Qatari officials who supported these negotiations for a long time. He specially thanked them for providing a place to set up a representative office for the Taliban team which negotiated with the US team.
Qatar although was not much involved in the direct negotiation between Taliban & US as this was mostly done by Pakistan, however it played equally, if not more important role by hosting the political office of Taliban for almost two years. It was also able to win the confidence of Taliban, USA, and Pakistan for its impartiality during the eighteen month long negotiation process. Without this support there was no way that US-Taliban negotiations could have reached an agreement.
Qatar at one point helped to salvage the deal when it was about to collapse after the negotiations were already wrapped and the deal was about to be signed. A Qatari official who was also involved in the process said that Doha looked for a “face-saving” way to restore talks when Trump cancelled a meeting in September with Taliban leaders owing to the attack by the group which killed a U.S. soldier.
“We thought about two things to do. Number one a hostage release or swap and the second one to work on a reduction in violence. We thought if we succeeded in those two points we can save the process and bring the parties to the negotiating table again, and that’s what we did in November.” said Mutlaq Al Qahtani, Qatar’s foreign ministry representative for counterterrorism and mediation of conflict resolution.
James Dorsey of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and Middle East Institute in Singapore said, “The Qataris have essentially tried to make themselves crucial to the United States in being mediators where the Americans need mediators and of course post-2017... positioning Qatar that way was very important.”
The Taliban deal could also place Qatar in a position which could help decrease tensions between Washington and Iran. This is because Qatar hosts the largest U.S. military base in the region and also shares a giant gas field with Iran which sided with Doha during the Saudi led boycott of Qatar.