The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has declared a state of Qatar claimed Thursday that it is working with the Taliban to rapidly restore Kabul’s airport, which has been closed since US forces left, potentially posing significant strategic and humanitarian problems.
On Wednesday, a Gulf country jet was the first foreign aircraft to arrive in the Afghan capital since frantic evacuations stopped a day earlier with the American departure.
According to a source close to the situation, an aircraft from Doha arrived in Kabul on Thursday, bringing specialists who would investigate the airport’s security and operational elements.
Doha, a key transit point for Afghan migrants, said it was working diligently to restore operations as soon as possible.
“We are optimistic that we will be able to run it as soon as feasible,” said Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, whose country has strong ties with the Taliban, who took control of Kabul on August 15.
“It is critical… that the Taliban show their commitment to provide safe passage and freedom of travel for Afghans,” Sheikh Mohammed stated.
“Hopefully, we’ll hear some positive news in the next few days,” he said.
Sheikh Mohammed said Turkey was involved in talks about restoring the airport and wanted to offer technical help.
Turkey said Thursday that it was “considering” suggestions from the Taliban and others for the airport, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu emphasising that security “inside and outside” the facilities remained a major concern.
According to an Afghan civil aviation official quoted by Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera, Kabul will resume airport operations “soon.”
“Domestic flights will start tomorrow (Friday), but foreign flights will take longer,” he added.
Not in working order –
The US, which seized the airport in the closing weeks of its 20-year military operation to evacuate tens of thousands of civilians, said it backed Qatari and Turkish efforts to recover the airport.
The airport was formerly managed by third-country contractors who are no longer allowed to do so, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price in Washington.
“You have to have an element or an organisation capable of running the airport before you can have a functional airport,” Price told reporters.
Commercial airliners and charters need security guarantees as well as an airport that is no longer “in a state of deep decay,” according to Price.
On August 26, a suicide explosion claimed by the Islamic State terrorist organisation, an opponent of the Taliban government, killed more than 100 Afghans and 13 US troops as large crowds waited outside to board flights out of the country.
Because it only had one runway, the airport immediately posed difficulties. It’s just five kilometres (three miles) from downtown Kabul, so aircraft must fly in a holding pattern above the city if they can’t land right away.
A working government is critical for bringing in desperately needed humanitarian supplies as well as bringing out more individuals who are afraid of the Taliban.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday that his country has evacuated about 17,000 British and Afghan people since April and underlined that anyone left behind, particularly those most at danger, may come to the UK.
“That’s why we’re keeping a close eye on what could happen at Kabul Airport,” he said.
The Taliban are resuming power 20 years after their five-year administration was overthrown by US-led forces for harbouring Al-Qaeda, which carried out the September 11 attacks.
After 20 years as rebels, the Taliban now face the enormous job of re-running the country and its infrastructure.
Qatar, where the Taliban maintains a political office, has sponsored a flurry of discussions in recent months between the US, the Taliban, and the previous Afghan government.