Turkish-Qatari delegation in Kabul to discuss deal to run Afghanistan's airports

A joint delegation of Turkish and Qatari officials is in Kabul as both countries try to explore the possibility of jointly running five airports in Afghanistan with the ruling Taliban

Dec 24, 2021
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Afghanistan's airports

A joint delegation of Turkish and Qatari officials is in Kabul as both countries try to explore the possibility of jointly running five airports in Afghanistan with the ruling Taliban. Early operationalization would also speed up the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance.  If a deal comes through, the two countries will jointly run airports in Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Kandahar, and Khost provinces. Airport operations remain disrupted since the collapse of the Afghan government in August this year.

Taliban officials said they would keep national interests in mind while signing any deal in this regard. Earlier, these airports were being run by NATO countries. 

Imamuddin Ahmadi, a spokesman of the Afghan Ministry of Transport, told TOLOnews, “The contract will be about the tower, ground handling, and some more technical sections.” International flights would be operational in Afghanistan once a deal is signed, he added.

The fall of Kabul in August was followed by a hectic two-week-long evacuation by the US and other countries. However, in the whole process, the Kabul airport also suffered significant damage. 

“No serious problems exist now, readiness has been taken for flights, and some remaining problems will be resolved after the agreement,” Abdul Hadi Hamdan, the director of Kabul airport, was quoted as saying by TOLOnews. 

Significantly, Turkey’s initial efforts, prior to the fall of Kabul, to run the airport were rebuffed by the Taliban officials as Ankara insisted on maintaining a small military presence to safeguard its support personnel. Later, Qatari officials also held similar discussions that ended up without any deal. 

Following the regime change, international airlines suspended their operations in Kabul and other airports, citing inadequate security conditions and the lack of trained technicians and ground staff.

Experts said international airlines would resume their operations if the Taliban-run administration allows foreign firms to run the airport. However, any potential deal will have to pass through two key tricky challenges - funding for operations and security guarantees. 

Importantly, as the humanitarian crisis worsens by the day, the Taliban officials are increasingly coming under pressure to resume airport operations as it would also fasten the delivery of much-needed assistance. (SAM)

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