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UAE to operate ground services at three Afghan airports

Kabul Airport Creative Commons
UAE will operate three airports in Afghanistan

The United Arab Emirates has won a contract to operate ground services at three airports in Afghanistan, UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash said today on Twitter, confirming an announcement made earlier by the Taliban.

Turkey and Qatar were also competing for the contract and had sent technical teams to help airport operations and security after the Taliban took over in August last year, as foreign forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s acting deputy prime minister, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told reporters in Kabul on Tuesday that his administration agreed to renew an airport ground handling agreement with the UAE.

“The well-deserved win to operate ground services in three Afghan airports, which came after a big competition with several states, is underpinned by the UAE’s capability and competence in civil aviation management and safety,” Gargash said.

It was not immediately clear whether the agreement went beyond existing arrangements or if it included airport security, a sensitive issue for the Taliban.

A source briefed on the negotiations in Afghanistan told Reuters that a sticking point in the negotiations with Qatar had been Doha’s condition that Qatari security personnel be present at the airports.

The Taliban, which fought for decades against US-led NATO troops, say they do not want the return of international forces.