ANKARA: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday announced that a Turkish company and a Qatari company would jointly submit a proposal to the Taliban to run five airports in Afghanistan for their approval “if the conditions are right.”
A busy week awaits technical delegations as a group of experts are expected to travel to Doha first, before heading to Afghanistan to discuss the details of operating Kabul airport – a key point to route humanitarian aid to Afghan civilians – and its reopening to international travel.
Experts point out that Turkey’s and Qatar’s involvement in airport management will help the Taliban maintain ties with international actors and escape international isolation, while Ankara will also use its Afghanistan card to restore ties with Washington and gain a foothold in regional geopolitics. .
In the meantime, the Turkish and Qatari delegations, which have already signed a joint agreement on the operation of airports in Afghanistan, will make joint proposals to the Taliban, which will be discussed on Wednesday.
Turkey initially proposed to operate the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul with technical and security assistance, but questions remain unanswered as to why the original plan changed and the benefits of this proposal for regional security and the channeling of humanitarian aid.
On Sunday, Cavusoglu met with Acting Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Islamabad to discuss the airport issue.
“While the Taliban have succeeded in capturing Afghanistan militarily and the Doha peace process is dead, the Taliban now wish to increase their capacity to govern, but they lack both internal and international legitimacy,” Zalmai Nishat, a researcher at the Asia Center at the University of Sussex, told Arab News.
âThe Taliban may have requested the operationalization of these airports in western, northern, southern and central Afghanistan. The lack of capacity at these airports is a key problem and Turkey can address it with its much needed technical expertise, âhe added.
However, Nishat stressed that in the new round of negotiations with the Taliban, Turkey should design its own Afghan politics and use its stature and prestige to ensure democratic representation of all ethnic communities, sectarians and political factions in Afghanistan.
With its role as a non-combatant in the country over the years, Turkey has established ties with various segments of Afghan society, including the Taliban.
The Turkish government insists on including Turkish figures from minority groups – such as Turkmens and Uzbeks – as well as women in the new Afghan government.
“By helping run airports, Ankara plans to gain a foothold in Afghanistan to help it achieve its broader goals in the region,” Galip Dalay, researcher at the German Institute for Political and Security Affairs, told Arab News. .
“All the regional powers already had their role in Afghanistan and establishing a significant influence in the operationalization of the airports is the only area that Turkey can currently occupy,” he added.
However, for Dalay, Ankara is likely to bring to the negotiating table the âsecurityâ role that it wants to assume in the airports of Afghanistan.
“Qatar is ready to share responsibilities with Turkey on this issue as it does not have enough skills to manage airport security,” he said.
Dalay also noted that the Taliban and Ankara would find common ground for the role of airport security without being limited to technical or civilian roles.
âThe Taliban are currently in economic and political isolation on the international stage and they will be open to any offer to break it. At this point, a Turkish private contractor can take on the role of security at the airport, and thus Turkey will gain influence in its relations vis-Ã -vis the Biden administration and the EU with this new responsibility as it will open both humanitarian aid channels to the country and help manage migratory flows to Europe, âhe said.
On Monday, Cavusoglu said that a Turkish company and a Qatari company signed a memorandum of understanding for the management of five airports in Afghanistan, including Hamid Karzai, but did not name the other four.