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What will happen in Afghanistan after America’s withdrawal, and what is the fate of Kabul Airport?

Pentagon, Kabul airport, United States, Taliban, Britain, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Anatolia Agency, NATO, Middle East Eye, Qatar, Turkey

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What will happen in Afghanistan after America’s withdrawal, and what is the fate of Kabul Airport?

The issue of managing Kabul airport after the American withdrawal is still a sensitive file for the Taliban movement as well as for Western countries, after the United States on August 30 ended the process of withdrawing American military forces from Afghanistan permanently, according to the Pentagon.

The American evacuation process extended for more than two weeks from Kabul airport, during which it succeeded in evacuating thousands of American and Afghan citizens, despite the chaos that prevailed in that process.

The United States has evacuated more than 5,500 American citizens since the evacuation flights began on August 14, and a small number of American nationals have chosen to stay in Afghanistan, many of whom preferred to stay with their family members, according to “CNN”.

The Biden administration has said that it expects the Taliban to continue to allow Americans and others to leave Afghanistan safely after the completion of the US military withdrawal, but concerns about how they will leave if there is no functioning airport.

Tens of thousands of Afghans remain at risk, such as translators who have worked with the US military, journalists and women’s rights advocates. Their fate is unclear, but officials fear the Taliban will retaliate.

The Taliban have pledged to allow all foreign nationals and Afghan nationals who hold a passport from another country to leave Afghanistan, according to a joint statement issued by Britain, the United States and others last Sunday, Reuters reported.

The most pressing question for the international community remains: What will happen to Kabul airport after the departure of US forces?

In this context, the Taliban are in talks with the governments of countries such as Qatar and Turkey to try to help maintain civil aviation operations at the airport, the only way for many to leave Afghanistan.

The Biden administration expects that the Taliban will continue to allow Americans and others to leave Afghanistan safely after the completion of the US military withdrawal

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, in a statement carried by the Anatolia Agency on August 30, that the Kabul airport needs repairs before it can be reopened to civilian flights.

Turkey has been responsible – within the framework of the NATO mission – for airport security for the past 6 years, and keeping the airport open after foreign forces hand over responsibility for it is essential, not only for Afghanistan to remain connected to the world, but also to maintain supplies and relief operations.

Ankara will use a private company whose employees are former army and police officers, and will provide security at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan, according to Middle East Eye.

In addition, special civilian commando units will operate only within the airport boundaries to ensure the safety of personnel responsible for technical matters.

The Taliban are holding talks with the governments of countries such as Qatar and Turkey, seeking to help maintain civil aviation operations from the airport.

According to an informed source, the memorandum on this issue will be officially signed soon, as the US forces have already completed their withdrawal.

The source also stated that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to exchange views with NATO allies before signing the agreement, to bypass the directions of some countries, including Britain, which said that no country should conclude bilateral agreements with the Taliban that recognizes it as the ruler of Afghanistan, stressing that Ankara will recognize In the end, the Taliban as a legitimate force for Afghanistan.

Erdogan said in his statement last Friday that the first meeting with the Taliban took more than 3 hours, and said: “The Taliban offered us to operate Kabul airport, we have not yet taken a decision on this issue.”

On the other hand, the Taliban movement called yesterday for the establishment of full relations based on “brotherhood” with Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on the same day: that he is ready to conclude military and economic agreements with the movement that is now ruling Afghanistan.

This rapprochement came after negotiations about 3 weeks ago between the Taliban and Turkey focused on securing and operating Kabul Airport, which made it possible, in particular, to agree on keeping the Turkish embassy in Afghanistan, unlike the rest of the NATO member states.

Turkish Foreign Minister confirms that Kabul airport needs repairs before reopening to civilian flights

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an interview with the Turkish channel TRT: “We want strong and good relations, Turkey is an important country for us, and Afghanistan has old historical relations with Turkey that it wants to preserve and wants to strengthen further.”

He added, “With these relations, we must reach complete mutual trust, and the peoples of Turkey and Afghanistan have ideological, cultural and religious commonalities. We want to consolidate the relationship and get closer with the Turkish government and the Turkish people.”

He also said, “We want Turkey’s support, Turkish engineers must help us, and the Turkish diplomatic presence must be strong, and we must count on them as our brothers, and they must continue to support us.”

Mujahid added in the interview: “We want to reassure everyone that we have trained special forces for airport security, and if we need help on the technical side, Turkish engineers and technicians can be used, and on the security side our forces will take care of that.”

Ankara will employ a private company whose employees are former army and police officers, and will provide security at Kabul airport for technicians only.

In response to a question about the possibility of concluding an agreement with Afghanistan similar to the one concluded by Turkey with Libya, Erdogan replied in a press statement on August 30: “It is possible to conclude a similar agreement, it is enough to find someone to negotiate with.”

With the Taliban insisting that all foreign forces leave Afghan soil, Turkey announced the withdrawal of its military force from Kabul.

The Taliban rejects any Turkish military presence at the airport, and stipulated that Turkey should take over the assistance of civilian personnel in operating the airport.

In the same context, the State of Qatar will have a prominent role in the management and operation of Kabul Airport, especially after the Taliban formally requested Doha for technical assistance in operating the airport and managing the situation there, which gives the State of Qatar an active role in Afghanistan.

Knowing that the Taliban has strong and good relations with Qatar, it was an honest broker during the negotiations that the movement conducted with the United States and culminated in the historic peace agreement that stipulates its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s request from Qatar to operate Kabul Airport came in light of the great experience that Doha possesses in operating airports, and also because of the high confidence the movement places in the Qatari leadership.

According to sources, the Taliban will work to quickly finalize the technical arrangements in order to facilitate the task of the Qataris in operating Kabul Airport, especially in light of its urgent need for their country to remain open to the outside world.

Qatar will not hesitate to accept the Taliban’s offer to operate and manage Kabul Airport, especially in light of Doha’s keenness to support peace efforts and support the Afghan economy after the complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Qatar played the role of mediator in the negotiations between Washington and the Taliban, which resulted in the signing of a historic agreement, in late February 2020, that provides for a gradual US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the exchange of prisoners.

The Taliban needs to end the chaos and security tension that prevails at Kabul airport, especially after the big explosion that killed 13 American soldiers and wounded 18 others, and 90 Afghans, and wounded 190 others.

The State of Qatar will have a prominent role in the management and operation of Kabul Airport, especially after the Taliban officially requested Doha for technical assistance in operating the airport.

It is noteworthy that the American invasion of Afghanistan came under the pretext of eliminating the terrorist groups that carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001. Over the 20 years since the American invasion, about 2,461 Americans, both civilian and military, have been killed, in addition to the injury of about 20,000 Americans in Afghanistan during that period.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan on August 14, after the capital, Kabul, fell into the hands of the armed group without a fight, which came as a continuation of the Taliban’s control of most of the country with the start of the US withdrawal, which today marks its official end.

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Rami Dabbas is a civil engineer by profession who works for Greater Amman Municipality in Jordan, Rami is the founder of Jordan’s Liberal Party in 2019 & a blogger.

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