Within a few weeks, the Taliban and the UAE could make a deal for the Gulf country to run Kabul Airport and a few others in Afghanistan. An agreement would make it easier for Islamist terrorists to communicate with the rest of the world while running a poor, drought-stricken country.
Abu Dhabi would win its diplomatic fight with Qatar over the new leaders of Afghanistan. The international community doesn’t recognise the Taliban’s government, so they have asked regional powers like Qatar and Turkey to run Kabul Airport.
After months of back-and-forth talks, which included the possibility of an agreement between the UAE, Turkey, and Qatar, sources say that the Taliban is ready to hand over all operations to the UAE, which used to run Afghan airports.
Sources say that Afghans will be hired at the airports, including for security jobs, as part of the deal with the UAE. The Taliban are against sending in people from other countries. They said that an Emirati contractor with ties to the government would take care of security while talks about Afghanistan’s airspace continue.
Before the Taliban took over, GAAC was in charge of security and ground handling at Afghan airports. They won the contract in May when Taliban officials went to Abu Dhabi.
Sources said that the talks between the Taliban and Qatar and Turkey broke down around the same time. Reuters tried to talk to Emirati officials but couldn’t reach them. GAAC didn’t comment. A spokeswoman for the Taliban’s transport ministry said that the UAE and the Taliban had signed an agreement on aviation security, but that the air traffic contract had not yet been finalised.
After the deal is finalised, UAE airlines may start flying to Kabul and other Afghan airports again. They haven’t been there since the Taliban took over the country last year.
Sources say that in the months before the ground services contract was given, the Taliban made changes to its negotiating team that are hard to explain. They said that the Taliban wanted to raise airport fees and taxes and make it harder for Qatar and Turkey to get money.
Reuters tried to talk to a Qatari official but couldn’t reach anyone. A Turkish official who didn’t want to be named said that talks with the Taliban ended “some time ago.” Western officials said that the airport in Kabul would be a key source of information about who is coming and going.
Since the insurgents took over, Abu Dhabi has tried to strengthen its long-standing ties with Afghanistan’s government through government aid and diplomatic efforts.
Western diplomats say that Abu Dhabi sees Afghanistan, which is next to UAE’s Gulf neighbour Iran, as part of its own backyard and cares about the political and economic stability of the country.
Western sources say that the UAE wants to fight against Qatar’s power in Afghanistan. Qatar is a rival of Abu Dhabi’s in the fight for power in the region.
The fighting in Afghanistan worries Western diplomats. From 2017 to 2021, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar over a dispute that was resolved last year.
The Taliban’s political headquarters were in Doha, Qatar. This was one of the few places where the insurgents could be met, and it was also where the US negotiated its exit from Afghanistan.
After the government backed by the West fell apart in August, Qatar took over running Kabul’s airport. Charter flights were run by Qatari special forces and state-owned Qatar Airways. Diplomats from the West say that the Taliban are worried about becoming too dependent on Qatar.