UAE to make a deal with Taliban to run Kabul airporttext_fields
Afghanistan: Kabul Airport is set to get a new taskmaster as the Taliban is all set to make a deal with the UAE. The Gulf nation will be running several other airports in Afghanistan as well once the deal is announced.
According to Reuters, the agreement will be announced within weeks.
Once UAE takes over the air traffic, it is expected to help the Taliban's isolation from the outside world. Earlier, the Taliban approached many regional powers like Qatar and Turkey to take charge of the airports in the country.
During the talks with Qatar and Turkey, the Taliban is said to have changed the negotiation team with no explanation. The new Afghan government also altered terms related to airport fees and taxes. This would have reduced Qatar and Turkey's control over revenue collection.
At one point, there were talks of a joint UAE-Turkey-Qatar deal. The decision to put UAE in charge is likely to have been influenced by the Gulf nation's previous experience in running Afghan airports. The new deal will also be a win for Abu Dhabi in its diplomatic row with Qatar which has been closer to Afghanistan's current rulers.
Abu Dhabi is considered to have legitimate interest in Afghanistan's political and economic stability because it shares a wider border with UAE's Gulf neighbour Iran. The UAE along with other middle eastern nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar from 2017 to 2021 due to a longstanding rivalry and disputes.
After the takeover of Afghanistan, Qatar helped run Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. Doha has hosted the Taliban's political office before the takeover. The relationship between Qatar and the Taliban is now speculated to be strained.
The Taliban has demanded that Afghan citizens should be employed at airports including security roles. Emirati state-linked GAAC was previously in charge of running security and ground handling services before the Taliban took over the government. The militant organisation is known for opposing the presence of foreign forces.
"An Emirati state-linked contractor would also provide security services, while talks continue on the management of Afghanistan's airspace," sources told Reuters.
UAE airlines have not flown to Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in August 2021. The air traffic is expected to resume once the new deal is finalised. A Taliban transport ministry spokesman told Reuters that an aviation security contract had already been signed with the UAE but said the air traffic contract was not finalised or confirmed yet.