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diplomatic moves

Qatar to reportedly represent U.S. 'diplomatic interests' in Afghanistan

The U.S. and Qatar have reportedly agreed to an arrangement in which Qatar will represent the U.S.' "diplomatic interests in Afghanistan," Reuters reports per a senior U.S. official — an otherwise "important signal of potential direct engagement between Washington and Kabul in the future after two decades of war."

On Friday, Qatar will reportedly sign in accordance with the agreement, designating it the "protecting power" for U.S. interests when facilitating communication between "Washington and the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which the United States does not recognize," Reuters writes. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will reportedly share the news of the arrangement — which is expected to come into effect on Dec. 31 — alongside his Qatari counterpart Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani on Friday.

"As our protecting power, Qatar will assist the United States in providing limited consular services to our citizens and in protecting U.S. interests in Afghanistan," said the senior State Department official who shared the news with Reuters. Under the arrangement, "Qatar will dedicate certain staff from its embassy in Afghanistan to a U.S. Interests Section and will coordinate closely with U.S. State Department and with U.S. mission in Doha," Reuters adds.

Though many countries are loath to formally recognize the Taliban, especially given how they've failed to live up to "political and ethnic inclusivity" pledges, some are realizing they'll need to "engage more to prevent the deeply impoverished country from plunging into a humanitarian catastrophe," especially as winter approaches, Reuters writes.

As part of a separate agreement, the U.S. official said, Qatar will also reportedly continue to temporarily host up to 8,000 Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas, as well as their eligible family members. Read more at Reuters.