Intensive negotiations on the future of Kabul Airport continue after the departure of US forces

Who will ultimately run the Kabul airport after US forces leave? That question, vital for Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, but also Western nations still waiting to evacuate all eligible ones, is the subject of intense and complex conversations.

Next week, on September 1, Hamid Karzai International Airport will be under the control of hardline Islamists, who as early as Friday claimed to have moved to certain areas on the military side of the facility.

“We depart before August 31. On that date, we are delivering, essentially giving the airport back to the Afghan people,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday, cutting off speculation about the possibility of it falling into the market. international. hands.

However, the Afghan government collapsed in the face of the Taliban advance into Kabul, and now once-insurgents are in power but have yet to form a government.

“Managing an airport is not a simple business,” Price said. “I think it is probably not reasonable to expect normal airport operations on September 1.”

The idea that the airport could be closed temporarily was raised on Wednesday by its boss, Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

He said there have been “very active efforts” by countries in the region to see if they can help keep it open “or, as necessary, reopen it if it closes for some time.”

Blinken insisted that the fate of the airport was important to the Taliban, who did not want to find themselves at the helm of a pariah regime again, as they did between 1996 and 2001.

Islamists especially hope that humanitarian aid will flow rapidly into the country.

Paper for Ankara?

But the airport is also important for Western countries that want to be able to get their citizens out of Afghanistan, as well as for thousands of Afghan allies who cannot be evacuated on the US-led airlift before August 31.

Until now, NATO has played a key role: the alliance’s civilian personnel have been in charge of air traffic control, fuel supply and communications, while military contingents from Turkey, the United States, Great Britain and Azerbaijan have been in charge. of security.

With the total withdrawal of international forces rapidly approaching, it was long thought that perhaps Turkey would seize the breach, retaining responsibility for securing the airport perimeter.

The hope was that the Taliban would accept the presence of a small force from Turkey, a primarily Muslim nation that is also part of NATO.

But once they took power, the Taliban have repeatedly said that they will not accept any foreign military presence in Afghanistan after August 31, and Turkish soldiers have started to withdraw.

However, negotiations have continued on the diplomatic front.

After the first talks on Friday between Turkish officials and the Taliban in Kabul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed that the Taliban now want to oversee security at the airport, while offering Ankara the option to manage its logistics.

“We will make a decision once calm prevails,” Erdogan said, saying Thursday’s suicide attack outside the airport demonstrated how complex the mission was.

Beyond Turkey, discussions about the future of the airport have included Qatar and private operators, while the United States has said it is acting as a facilitator.

But the question of who takes over the airport is a delicate one: Beyond security concerns, the airport is in disrepair, US officials say, adding that other than the US Army, there are few entities. in the world capable of taking over. of her from one day to the next.

US and Western air traffic experts have just completed an assessment of the airport in an attempt to determine whether commercial flights could resume quickly, Price said on Friday.

Other officials are more blunt: There will not be many airlines that will agree to fly to Kabul as long as the Taliban cannot offer real guarantees of safety and that the infrastructure is in good working order.


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