Interim Afghan government in Doha to discuss airport operations – Doha News

An agreement over airport operations is crucial in supporting the country through its economic crisis.

A delegation from the acting Afghan government is in Qatar to discuss the management of Afghanistan’s airports, according to Kabul’s Bakhtar News Agency (BNA).

The state-run news agency reported that the delegation is being led by acting Afghan Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Mullah Hamidullah Akhundzadeh. Other officials include acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.

The latest meetings focus on pending contracts in relation to five Afghan airports that Qatar and Turkey would help operate.

Qatari and Turkish technical teams were dispatched to Kabul after the completion of the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan on 31 August last year.

The teams were tasked to repair parts of the Hamid Karzai International Airport to resume civilian flights following mass evacuations. The first passenger flight  departed Kabul on 9 September.

The Qatar Airways flight carried 113 Afghans and foreigners and landed in Doha.

The two countries have been holding talks with the interim Afghan administration since last year over operating some of the country’s airports. Qatari and Turkish companies are currently running technical parts of the airport without a contract.

Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s acting government has tasked the foreign ministry to set a deadline for a contract with Qatar over the operations of Afghan airports.

No Qatari officials have released information regarding the deadline and it remains unclear whether the contract is going to be signed during the delegation’s visit to the Gulf state.

Qatar and its ally Turkey had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in December last year over running parts of Afghanistan’s airports.

“This visit which includes the acting ministers of Foreign Affairs and Information and Culture and the deputy Minister of Defence will discuss the technical affairs of five major airports,” said Imamuddin Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Afghan aviation ministry, as quoted by TOLOnews.

According to Afghan media, the five airports involved in the discussions include: Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kandahar airport, Balkh airport, Herat airport, and Khost airport.

An agreement over airport operations is crucial in supporting the country through its economic crisis, which has worsened since the Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021.

The US, which led a 20-year invasion of the country, was quick to freeze up to $9.1 billion worth of Afghan assets, contributing to the worsening economic situation.

In February, US President Joe Biden ordered the release of $7 billion of Afghanistan’s funds. The Biden administration decided to give Afghans living under dire humanitarian conditions $3.5 billion of the total amount.

The other half of the Afghan funds will be going towards victims of the 9/11 attack, a move that many described as the US “punishing” Afghans.

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also fled the country when the Taliban were on the outskirts of the capital city shortly before the takeover, with what reports claimed to be “tonnes of cash”.

Ghani, who is now exiled in the UAE after initially fleeing to Tajikistan, dismissed those claims.

Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation has also gotten worse over the years due to war, drought and corruption. According to the UN, more than 24.4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid to survive.

A report from 2021 estimated that 97% of Afghans could be living in poverty by the middle of this year.

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