The Kabul airport has faced a suicide bombing with U.S. servicemembers and civilians killed. It’s been the site of a humanitarian disaster as Afghans desperately attempt to flee Taliban control of their country. And with the U.S. stating its intention to stick with an August 31st deadline for full withdrawal, the question of what happens afterward looms large for the many who won’t get out by then.
Amidst this backdrop it appears that the Kabul International Airport will be jointly run by Turkey and Qatar going forward. The deal remains in draft form until the U.S. actually leaves the ground there.
Turkey wanted to leave troops stationed in Afghanistan but failed to achieve a deal with the Taliban for that. However a private Turkish security firm will remain on-site at the airport, staffed by ex-solders. The security company will almost certainly be SADAT, founded by ex-Turkish brigadier general Adnan Tanrıverdi and loyal to President Tayyip Recep Erdogan (indeed, they’ve been accused of serving as Erdogan’s private army).
Key deal points include:
- Turkish recognition for the Taliban government
- Turkey and Qatar operating the airport together as a consortium
- Turkish security firm presence rather than military
- Turkish special forces on site cannot leave airport grounds
To show just how complicated things are, though, the previous government of Afghanistan had negotiated a deal with a UAE-based group to operate the airport and “[t]he Taliban will need to cut a separate deal with them.”
The deal gets Turkish President Erdogan a bargaining chip with the West, and also helps avoid Turkey being the recipient of refugees (as they are from Syria) and gives them control of the drug trade out of Afghanistan. Put another way, Turkish control over the airport probably makes continued expatriation of Afghans possible while also being a bad result in greater Turkish influence in the region as well as inside NATO.