Qatar will represent American interests in Afghanistan beginning December 31, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday.

The U.S. embassy in Kabul was closed after last summer’s withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops, ending the country’s 20-year war and leaving it under Taliban control.

Blinken and Qatari Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani signed an accord at the State Department authorizing Qatar as the “protecting power” of the U.S. in the South Asian country.

“Qatar will establish a U.S. interest section within its embassy in Afghanistan to provide certain consular services and monitor the condition and security of U.S. diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan,” Blinken said.

Qatar will also oversee the protection of the vacant U.S. diplomatic facilities in Kabul.

Qatar has played vital role in talks between the Taliban and the U.S. for many years and has helped with the evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan.

More than 124,000 people have been evacuated from the country since August. About half of the evacuees traveled through Qatar on Qatari charter and U.S. military planes.

In a separate agreement, a senior U.S. official said Qatar also committed to temporarily host up to 8,000 vulnerable Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas for themselves and eligible family members.

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