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UAE in talks with Taliban to run Kabul airport: sources

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A member of Taliban security forces stands guard in front of a Qatar Airways airplane boarding passengers at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 10, 2021. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo
A member of Taliban safety forces stands guard in entrance of a Qatar Airways airplane boarding passengers on the worldwide airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 10, 2021. WANA (West Asia Information Company) through REUTERS/File Photograph
  • Sources say UAE officers have held a collection of discussions with Taliban to debate working the airport. 
  • Say talks show how international locations are searching for to say their affect in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. 
  • Taliban say they don’t want international forces within the nation following their return to energy after twenty years of struggle.

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates has held talks with the Taliban to run Kabul airport, going up in opposition to Gulf rival Qatar in a diplomatic tussle for affect with Afghanistan’s new rulers, in keeping with 4 sources with data of the matter.

UAE officers have held a collection of discussions with the group in latest weeks to debate working the airport that serves as landlocked Afghanistan’s principal air hyperlink to the world, the international diplomats based mostly within the Gulf area advised Reuters.

The talks show how international locations are searching for to say their affect in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan even because the ruling group largely stays a global pariah and its authorities isn’t formally recognised by any nation.

The Emiratis are eager to counter diplomatic clout loved there by Qatar, in keeping with the sources who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Qataris have been serving to run the Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport together with Turkey after enjoying a serious position in evacuation efforts following the chaotic US withdrawal in August, and have mentioned they’re keen to take over the operations.

But the Taliban has not but formalised an association with Qatar, the 4 diplomats mentioned.

A senior Emirati international ministry official mentioned the UAE, which beforehand ran Kabul airport in the course of the US-backed Afghan republic, “remains committed to continuing to assist in operating” it to make sure humanitarian entry and protected passage.

Abu Dhabi additionally aided latest evacuation efforts.

The Taliban and Qatari authorities didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Two of the diplomats mentioned the Taliban has additionally sought monetary help from the UAE, although they added it was not clear if this was associated to the airport discussions.

The Emirati international ministry official, Salem Al Zaabi, director of worldwide safety cooperation, didn’t reply to a query on whether or not the UAE was contemplating offering monetary assist to the Taliban.

Airport intelligence

One key situation that is nonetheless to be resolved between the Taliban and potential airport operators is who would offer safety on the website, the 4 diplomats mentioned. The Taliban say they don’t want international forces within the nation following their return to energy after twenty years of struggle.

Nonetheless, Qatari particular forces are presently offering safety inside the airport’s perimeter, the diplomats added, whereas Taliban particular forces have been patrolling areas outdoors.

To date international locations have been reluctant to formally recognise the Taliban’s authorities, accusing the group of backtracking on pledges to uphold the rights of ladies and minorities.

But Qatari officers have urged better worldwide engagement with the Taliban to stop impoverished Afghanistan from falling right into a humanitarian disaster. Gulf states have additionally voiced concern that the U.S. withdrawal would permit al Qaeda to regain a foothold in Afghanistan.

Whereas there’s a little industrial profit for any operator, the airport would offer a much-needed supply of intelligence on actions in and in another country, in keeping with the 4 diplomats, who mentioned that because the withdrawal many international locations have lacked real-time data.

Regional rivalries 

Qatar and the UAE have had strained relations for years as they competed for regional affect.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and their allies boycotted Qatar for over three years, chopping off political, commerce and transport ties, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism – a cost that it denies. The dispute was resolved in January this 12 months.

Qatar has lengthy been the gateway to the Taliban, with Doha internet hosting the group’s political workplace since 2013 and negotiations with the U.S. in early 2020 that led to the withdrawal.

Final week, Qatari officers strengthened their place by signing an accord to signify American diplomatic pursuits in Afghanistan.

The UAE has maintained ties with the Taliban too, in keeping with two of the diplomats. They mentioned the nation had been house to some members of the group lately, together with Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who they added lived within the Sharjah emirate together with his household from a minimum of 2013. Stanikzai is now deputy international minister within the Taliban administration.

Al Zaabi didn’t reply to questions on the UAE’s relationship with Stanikzai. The Taliban didn’t instantly reply to queries on Stanikzai dwelling within the UAE.

The Taliban mentioned this month that the UAE had reopened its embassy in Kabul. The UAE has not commented.

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