Qatar, Taliban working on reopening Kabul airport

Doha despatches technical team to help in resuming flights for humanitarian aid, people’s movement

Qatar is working with the Taliban to reopen Kabul’s airport as soon as possible, its Foreign Minister said on Thursday, urging the hardline Islamists to allow Afghans to leave.

The airport, the scene of a frenzied evacuation which ended with the U.S. troop withdrawal on Tuesday, is out of operation with much of its infrastructure degraded or destroyed.

“We are working very hard [and] we remain hopeful that we will be able to operate it as soon as possible,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

“Hopefully in the next few days we will hear some good news,” he told a news conference in Doha.

A Qatari technical team flew into Kabul on Wednesday to discuss reopening the airport, the first plane to land there since the evacuations.

A source with knowledge of the matter said the goal was to resume flights both for humanitarian aid and to provide freedom of movement, including the resumption of evacuation efforts.

More than 123,000 foreign nationals and Afghans fled the country in the airlift operation, but many more are desperate to depart.

“It’s very important… that the Taliban demonstrate their commitment to provide safe passage and freedom of movement for the people of Afghanistan,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

Turkey’s role

Qatar is “engaging with [the Taliban] and also with Turkey if they can provide any technical assistance,” he added.

Sheikh Mohammed was addressing a joint press conference with his British counterpart Dominic Raab, who said “we need to adjust to the new reality” of Taliban rule.

“Our immediate priority is to secure the safe passage of those remaining British nationals, but also the Afghans who worked for the U.S., and indeed others who may be at most risk,” Mr. Raab said.

Qatar hosted negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S. in recent years and was a transit point for about 43,000 evacuees from Afghanistan.

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