Security

Taliban signs deal to hand control of Afghan airports to UAE company – The Washington Post


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KABUL — The Taliban is handing over control of the country’s airports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office Tuesday.

A memorandum of understanding was signed Tuesday in Kabul “for the control and management of the airports in Afghanistan” by Taliban acting first deputy prime minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Razack Aslam Mohammed Abdur Razack of GAC Dubai, a shipping and logistics company. The agreement applies to airports in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat.

The deal will only apply to the logistics at the airports and not security, which has been a sticking point in past discussions with potential partners to manage the sites. When Qatari engineering team were working on the airport they were accompanied by their own private security.

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The agreement was reached “after long negotiations,” Baradar said at the signing. He added that he hoped the development would be “another step” to encourage international investment in Afghanistan to ease the country’s “suffering.”

“This will open the door for other countries” to invest, he said. “All countries that are interested in investment in Afghanistan, we can guarantee their security.”

Razack said he believed the agreement would bring the business community back to Afghanistan along with airline companies.

“The international airlines which have been away from this country in the last few months will come back to us,” he told journalists.

Afghanistan’s main international airport in Kabul was ransacked in August as the city’s security forces melted away and Taliban fighters took control of the capital.

Thousands of Afghans desperate to flee destroyed critical machinery such as radar and communications equipment, forcing nearly all international commercial airlines to suspend flights to Afghanistan.

The handover of control of the facility to a company with the technological expertise to repair and operate an international airport could be the first step toward the resumption of foreign flights more than nine months since the Taliban takeover.

Currently, Afghan carriers Ariana and Kam Air are the only airlines that fly internationally.

Qatar initially provided engineering teams to partially repair some navigation and radio systems that allowed for Afghan airlines to resume service. But without fully functioning radar, the insurance costs associated with using the Kabul airport make commercial operations largely unviable.

Afghanistan is battling a spiraling economic crisis, and some Taliban officials have called for international investment to ease unemployment and inflation. But for most companies and banks, economic sanctions on Taliban leaders are the most significant barrier to investment.

GAC Dubai, according to its website, is based in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone and first set up in the UAE in the 1960s. It provides shipping, logistics and marine services.



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