Since the Taliban took power on August 15, the Americans and their allies have organized a gigantic airlift and have exfiltrated 123,000 people in two weeks. Insurgents have so far refused foreign aid to ensure security, logistics, and the resumption of commercial flights. Overview of questions concerning the airport.
Kabul airport, the nerve center of evacuation operations over the past fortnight, is now under Taliban control after the departure of the last US military plane from Afghanistan on Monday, August 30.
The security of this gateway to and from the country is a major concern. The July 26 suicide attack claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) group, which killed more than 100 people, including 13 American soldiers, targeted one of the gates of the complex. And on Monday, its missile defense system intercepted rockets launched by IS-K.
Turkey had offered to take over the security of the airport, but the Taliban have always insisted that they will not accept any foreign military presence beyond August 31. “Our fighters and special forces are able to control the airport and we do not need the help of anyone for the security and administrative control of Kabul airport,” a spokesman told AFP. Taliban word, Bilal Karimi.
But Michael Kugelman, an expert on South Asia at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, believes that a foreign security presence is essential to ensure the return of foreign airlines, and that a deal is still possible.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdelrahmane Al-Thani told the Financial Times that his country was trying to convince the Taliban to accept foreign aid. “What we’re trying to explain to them is that airport security involves a lot more than just securing the perimeters,” he said.
The airport is of “existential importance” for Afghanistan and for medical and humanitarian support to this country, underlined, for her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It is essential to keep the airport open,” also insisted NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Who will ensure the logistics of the airport?
Maintaining and managing an airport is a complex task, which requires a great deal of expertise. It is not sure whether the Taliban have it, after thousands of educated and skilled Afghans have fled in recent days.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said from a US perspective, the airport was now returned to “the Afghans”. In recent weeks, NATO has played a key role, with its civilian staff taking care of air traffic control, refueling and communications.
As with security, discussions have taken place with Turkey to provide technical assistance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was in talks with the Taliban.
What condition is the airport in?
US officials have acknowledged that the airport is in poor condition, with most of its basic infrastructure damaged or destroyed. A pilot told AFP that the passenger terminal building was ransacked by people who stormed the airport in the hours of extreme confusion following the Taliban takeover.
The passenger control tower will also need to be replaced before commercial flights can return. The two runways are still usable, as these two weeks of evacuations have proven, but they are not in the best of conditions either.
Will commercial flights resume?
The Taliban have insisted that they intend to keep the civilian airport open. But without real security guarantees, trading companies will not come to Kabul. A “perfect storm of risk” is to be expected for these companies, says Mr. Kugelman.
Having an operational airport would allow the Taliban to improve their image on the international scene. “If the Taliban are seeking recognition and legitimacy from governments around the world, then they must have an airport that works, is safe, and can be trusted,” Kugelman adds.
Will Afghans be allowed to leave the country?
The Taliban insisted that Afghans with passports and visas would be free to come and go. Many Afghans and observers, however, question this promise by the Taliban, as well as their commitment not to attack those who worked for the former government or for foreign forces.
There is also a good chance that Afghans who failed to board one of the evacuation flights in the past two weeks are now too scared to make it to the airport again, Kugelman said. .
“For many of them, who already have reason to fear the Taliban, the prospect of trying to flee the country via a Taliban-controlled airport is not a very pleasant thought,” the expert said.