Turkey and Qatar want normal flights at Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport to resume, a United States Department of State spokesperson said on Wednesday, adding that the Taliban voices the same desire.
“The Taliban as well want to see not only charter flights, but normal commercial activity resumed at Kabul International Airport on an expedited basis,” Ned Price said at a press briefing.
He added that the U.S. hopes “that will be able to happen in the not-too-distant future so that in addition to the charter flights that our Qatari partners have very generously administered to date, there will be additional options for individuals to leave from Kabul International Airport.”
With the Taliban in possession of Kabul's airport after the U.S. completed its withdrawal on Aug. 31, the focus will now shift from the mammoth Western evacuation operation to the group's future plans for the transport hub.
Turkey had offered to run security following the withdrawal of foreign troops, but the Taliban repeatedly said it would not accept any foreign military presence in Afghanistan after Aug. 31.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey was still assessing the group's offer, but the Taliban still insisted on controlling security.
Since 2002, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have operated in Afghanistan under the United Nations, NATO and bilateral agreements to contribute to the peace, welfare and stability of the Afghan people. Turkey had more than 500 noncombatant troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s now-abandoned mission in the war-torn country.
Turkey had been in Afghanistan in a noncombatant role for two decades and had been involved in consultancy efforts, reconstruction and maintenance. It had been operating the airport for six years.
After the Taliban seized control of the country, Turkey offered technical and security assistance at the airport.
Keeping the airport open after foreign forces handed over control is vital not just for Afghanistan to stay connected to the world but to maintain aid supplies and operations.
The Taliban have insisted they want to keep the civilian airport open, but without guarantees over security, commercial airlines are reluctant to operate out of Kabul. So far, only Pakistan's national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), has resumed scheduled service to the airport.