Taliban plans pact with UAE to run Afghan airports

After months of discussions with the UAE, Turkey, and Qatar, the Taliban’s acting deputy prime minister said on Tuesday that the organization will sign a deal with the UAE to operate airports in Afghanistan.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar announced the news through Twitter and subsequently told reporters in Kabul that his administration was renewing an airport ground handling arrangement with the United Arab Emirates.

It was unclear if the deal extended beyond existing procedures or covered airport security, which is a sensitive topic for the Taliban, who have battled against US-led NATO troops for decades and claim they do not want international soldiers to return.

According to a source briefed on the talks, Doha’s need that Qatari security officers be present at the airport has been a sticking point in the talks.

After the Taliban took charge in August last year as international forces departed, Qatar and Turkey dispatched temporary technical teams to assist with airport operations and security.

The airport negotiations show how nations are attempting to exercise their influence in Afghanistan, despite the fact that the hardline Islamist organization remains virtually a worldwide pariah and its government is not legally recognized by any country.

As discussions began last year, insiders told the media that the Emiratis were eager to challenge Qatar’s diplomatic power.

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have had tense relations for years as they vie for regional power.

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