Taliban yet to decide on Turkish, Qatari help for Kabul airport
The Taliban has said that it's too early to decide whether they will need Turkey or Qatar's help to operate the Kabul airport.
Duvar English - Reuters
The Taliban has said that the Islamist group is yet to decide whether they will need Turkey or Qatar's help to operate the Kabul airport.
"It's a bit too early to decide whether we will need Turkey or Qatar's help to operate the Kabul airport," a Taliban spokesperson told Reuters on Aug. 28.
NATO allies are struggling to ensure that Afghanistan's main gateway, Kabul airport, remains open for urgently needed humanitarian aid flights next week when they end their evacuation airlifts and turn it over to the Taliban.
The airport, a lifeline for tens of thousands of evacuees fleeing Taliban fighters in the past two weeks and for aid arriving to relieve the impact of drought and conflict, was hit by a deadly suicide bombing outside its gates on Aug. 26.
Turkey said it was still talking to the Taliban about providing technical help to operate the airport after the Aug. 31 deadline for troops to leave Afghanistan but said the bombing underlined the need for a Turkish force to protect any experts deployed there.
Turkey has not said whether the Taliban would accept such a condition, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Aug. 27 the country was "not in a rush to start flights" again to Kabul.
But aid groups said there is an urgent need to maintain humanitarian deliveries to a country suffering its second drought in four years and where 18 million people, nearly half the population, depend on life-saving assistance.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Aug. 27 that U.S. and allied air traffic experts had assessed Kabul airport "for capabilities that would support the resumption of commercial operations once we depart" and that the United States was working with all parties "to facilitate a smooth transfer."
However, he noted: "With the U.S. military set to depart by Aug. 31, I think that it is probably unreasonable to expect that there will be normal airport operations on Sept. 1."
Price said the Taliban also wanted a functioning airport and stressed that the operation of the airport after Aug. 31 was "not up to us." The Pentagon said several nations are willing to work with the Taliban to keep the airport operating.
As aid groups struggle to keep supply routes into the country open after the Aug. 31 departure of foreign troops, Afghans trying to leave the country are finding the few remaining exits slamming shut.
Several European Union countries have said they have ended evacuation operations from Kabul, and the United States has said that by Aug. 30 it will prioritize the removal of its last troops and military equipment.
Afghans with valid documents will be able to travel in the future at any time, a senior Taliban official said on Aug. 27.