Qatari team lands in Kabul for talks to resume airport operations Goal is to resume flights for both humanitarian aid and to provide freedom of movement after the Taliban took over the country, one source familiar with the matter tells AFP.
A Qatari aircraft has landed in Kabul carrying a technical team to discuss the resumption of airport operations after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
“A Qatari jet carrying a technical team has landed in Kabul earlier today to discuss the resumption of operations in the airport,” the source told AFP on Wednesday.
“While no final agreement has been reached regarding providing technical assistance, Qatar’s technical team has initiated this discussion based on the other sides’ request.
“Talks are still ongoing at the level of security and operation.”
The source said that the goal was to resume flights for both humanitarian aid and to provide freedom of movement, including the resumption of evacuation efforts.
‘Airport is in bad condition’
More than 123,000 foreign nationals and Afghans fled the country in a frenzied airlift operation that wound up on Tuesday, but many more are desperate to depart.
US officials have said Kabul airport is in a bad condition, with much of its basic infrastructure degraded or destroyed.
Taliban fighters celebrated with gunfire on Tuesday after the last US forces abandoned Kabul following a two-decade war.
Qatar hosted negotiations between the Taliban and the United States in recent years and was a transit point for about 43,000 evacuees from Afghanistan.
The US invaded Afghanistan and toppled its Taliban government in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda, which had sought sanctuary in the country.
Western capitals fear Afghanistan could again become a haven for extremists bent on attacks.
Gulf countries, including Qatar, have been instrumental staging posts for evacuation flights for Western countries’ citizens as well as Afghan interpreters, journalists and others.
People used to hide their ID cards, money and other valuable belongings while travelling by inter-city highways. The national ID or Tazkira could put someone’s life in danger as the Taliban did not recognise the US-backed government in Kabul. Some would put their money and documents in their socks, others would give money to their female companions, who would hide it inside their robes.
Despite the general feeling of security hanging in the air and supported by the Taliban’s soft image building, a number of politicians, government and military officials, journalists and activists say they are feeling unsafe.
Although daytime travelling has largely become safe, venturing out in the night along the highways is still risky.
The threat of theft on the highway to the north, connecting Kabul with Kunduz and Mazar, continues to be high after sundown. To avoid the chances of being mugged and robbed, private vehicles are only seen until the day ends.
Abdulwahid Karimi is a university lecturer in Takhar province. A day before Takhar’s surrender to the Taliban, he took his old car, packed a few bags and came to Kabul with his family of eight. He just returned to Takhar as Kabul was too expensive for him and his family to survive. On his way back to his hometown, he appeared confident that the situation has improved in the past few weeks.
“The highway is clear now. People can travel with their families at any time of the day,” he said.
Mohammad Ibrahim, a scholarship student in neighbouring Uzbekistan, travelled from Kabul to Mazar by road for the first time. “My family did not allow me to travel by road before because of the security concerns on the northern highway. I came for my holidays a few days before the fall of Mazar to the Taliban. I decided to go back. Before I left Kabul, the Taliban captured the city and flights were cancelled immediately.”
Ibrahim and his six college friends now have to travel by road to Mazar from where they will go to Uzbekistan through the Hairatan crossing point.
They seemed worried but the ticket seller assured them that they will reach their respective destinations safely.
There were few families on the bus that Ibrahim and his friends took to Mazar and some young boys were wearing western outfits — pants and shirts. The bus departed from Kabul at around 7:00 o’clock on the evening of August 28. It is scheduled to reach Mazar in 7-8 hours after passing through Parwan, Baghlan and Samangan provinces.
In a follow-up call with Ibrahim the next day, he told TRT World that the Taliban stopped their bus only at Kabul gate and Mazar gate. “In between, I did not see any check posts. There were several abandoned check posts in between with Taliban’s flags on it.”
At Kabul gate, the Taliban even asked passengers about the bus fare and if the drivers were overcharging. No one complained.
Gul Ahmad, who travelled by road to the southern Kandahar province after the Taliban’s takeover, said, “The only thing we were worried about this time was the damaged road.”
Lately, the Taliban shared a video on social media as part of their PR campaign showing construction machinery restarting construction of the Kabul-Kandahar highway road.
Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway to the south and west was also one of the dangerous routes many Afghans detested to take for personal and business purposes. Frequent Taliban check posts and armed robberies endangered many people’s lives and belongings. “Thanks to God, everything is good now. There is no threat to anyone”, Gul said.
Previously, apart from the Taliban and thieves, local militias also often blocked the road and even asked drivers for money. “There are only Taliban now. On the way, they entered the bus and checked our bags,” Gul recalled.
It has been a year and a half since the Taliban announced that they are responsible for the security of the south highway, and since then, there have not been major incidents on the way except for car accidents. “Crimes and robbery on the highway, and in general, are reduced significantly during the first days of Taliban’s rule”, he added.
Gul and his family left to stay with his parents in Kandahar as he lost his job in Kabul after the fall of the Afghan government.
Though the streets are quiet across the country, Daesh’s threat remains in Kabul and other major cities. Last week’s twin explosions at Kabul airport, claimed by Daesh’s Khorasan wing, killed over 70 Afghans and wounded more than 150 others. They all were desperately waiting to be airlifted out of the country.
The suicide bombing was a chilling reminder that there is a hidden enemy in the society, who has been accused of committing violent crimes against humanity.