Qatari and Turkish teams were able to resume civilian operations at Kabul’s airport in a timely manner following the Taliban takeover of the Afghan capital.
Qatari and Turkish delegations held “intensive talks” in Afghanistan on Wednesday with the interim Taliban-led government over managing Kabul’s airport.
The meetings are the first to take place since Qatari and Turkish delegations traveled to Kabul in December last year to hold discussions with Afghan officials over running various airports in the country.
According to Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the envoys discussed managing Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport and agreed to hold a new round of talks in Doha next week.
The Qatari delegation was led by Dr. Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani, the Gulf state’s Special Envoy for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution.
Al Qahtani discussed matters concerning airport operations with acting Afghan Minister of Interior Sirajuddin Haqqani.
The trilateral talks come months after technical teams from Doha and Ankara managed to facilitate the resumption of civilian flights at Kabul’s airport, following the completion of foreign troop withdrawal from the country on 31 August.
Qatari and Turkish teams were able to get the airport up and running within a short period of time, enabling the resumption of civilian operations and hundreds of evacuation flights—the vast majority of which were operated by Doha’s national carrier, Qatar Airways.
The first passenger flight to depart Kabul landed in Qatar on 9 September, carrying 113 Afghans and foreigners.
Before the resumption of civilian flights, mass evacuations had started on 15 August when the Taliban seized power after a series of rapid territorial gains.
This was followed with chaotic scenes at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, as US soldiers were seen violently pushing away civilians desperately trying to flee the country.
Qatar managed to carry out the largest airlift of people in history at the time, facilitating the safe exit of Afghans and foreigners from the country. Since then, the Gulf state has evacuated at least 70,000 Afghans and foreigners over the past months.
Qatar’s diplomatic efforts
Despite the collapse of the former Afghan government after then-President Ashraf Ghani fled the country the moment the militants arrived at the outskirts of Kabul, some members remained.
Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai and the former Afghan government’s Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah remained in the country.
Pleased to welcome HE Dr. Mutlaq bin Majid Al Qahtani, Special Envoy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of #Qatar at my residence in Kabul. At the presence of HE Fazil Hadi Muslimyar, the former speaker of the Senate, & HE Asadullah Sadati, the former deputy of #HCNR…1/2 pic.twitter.com/OShngGnsPC
— Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (@DrabdullahCE) January 19, 2022
Apart from the Taliban, Qatar maintained dialogue with Karzai and Abdullah.
More recently, Al Qahtani met with Abdullah in Kabul, where they discussed the latest developments in the country. The latter also thanked Qatar “for its efforts for peace and continued support to the people of Afghanistan,” as Abdullah tweeted Abdullah on Wednesday.
Even before the collapse of Ghani’s administration, Qatar had played a key diplomatic role over the years through facilitating direct talks between the US, the Taliban and the former Afghan government.
In September 2020, Qatar hosted intra-Afghan talks during which it brought members of the former Afghan government and the Taliban around the same table to negotiate a political agreement.
While the talks were seen as a major positive move in the Afghan peace process, they made no major progress.