An unnamed senior U.S. official quoted by Reuters says the United States and Qatar have agreed that that Persian Gulf state will represent U.S. diplomatic interests in Afghanistan.
The arrangement could signal possible direct engagement between Washington and Kabul, where a Taliban-led government came to power two months ago as U.S.-led international troops withdrew and a UN-backed elected government fled.
The source said that Qatar and the United States on November 12 would sign onto Qatar becoming a "protecting power" for U.S. interests and facilitating talks, which are complicated by the United States' and other countries' refusal to recognize the Taliban government.
"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," the official, who is from the State Department and requested anonymity, told Reuters.
They are especially critical of the hard-line veteran militants' apparent abandonment of pledges of political and ethnic "inclusivity" as well as their harsh treatment of women and minorities.
A separate deal was struck for Qatar to temporarily host as many as 8,000 at-risk Afghans applying for special immigrant visas and their family members at Camp Al-Sayliyah and Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, the official added.
International groups have warned that a race is on against the onset of severe winter in the South Asian country that could exacerbate an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe as infrastructure, finance, and other key elements of society fail an impoverished Afghanistan and its 39 million or so people.
The U.S.-Qatari arrangement reportedly calls for a U.S. interests section within the Qatari Embassy in Kabul that coordinates tightly with the U.S. State Department and a U.S. mission in Doha.
It is said to come into effect on December 31.
The unnamed official said Washington would also continue to engage with Taliban representatives in Doha, where a number of sides long sought to negotiate a peaceful end to a two-decade war that began soon after 9/11.
The "U.S. interests section" will reportedly operate out of part of the former compound of the U.S. Embassy before its suspension of operations, with security the responsibility of Qatar.
It could provide services like passport applications, documentation support, information, and emergency assistance, the official said.
Millions of Afghans are facing starvation and drought, in addition to the collapsed economy and shortages made worse by a suspension of much of the financial aid that was flowing into the country for years during the conflict.
The chaotic withdrawal of international troops stranded many U.S. allies, trained personnel, and others who might face retribution from Taliban gunmen.
The Taliban is also battling a seemingly rejuvenated campaign of violence by militants loyal to the Islamic State (IS).