“Events can catalyze, push history, and create a breakthrough” Borrell
View of people queuing to board the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 27, 2021. 2021 Maxar Technologies / Handout satellite image via REUTER
NATO allies are working to ensure Afghanistan’s main gateway, Kabul Airport, remains open for emergency humanitarian aid flights next week when they end their evacuation airlifts and hand them over to the Taliban, write Stéphanie Nebehay and Orhan Coskun.
The airport, a lifeline for tens of thousands of evacuees fleeing Taliban fighters over the past two weeks and for assistance arriving to ease the impact of drought and conflict, has been hit by a deadly suicide bombing outside its doors on Thursday (August 26).
Turkey said it was still in discussions with the Taliban about providing technical assistance to operate the airport after the August 31 deadline for the departure of troops from Afghanistan, but said the bombing underscored the need. a Turkish force to protect the experts deployed there.
Turkey has not said whether the Taliban will agree to such a condition, and President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that his country was “in no rush to restart flights” to Kabul.
But aid groups have said there is an urgent need to maintain humanitarian deliveries in a country suffering from its second drought in four years and where 18 million people, nearly half the population, depend on aid. vital.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday that US and allied air traffic experts had assessed the Kabul airport “for capabilities that would support the resumption of commercial operations once we leave.” and that the United States was working with all parties “to facilitate a good transfer”.
However, he noted: “With the US military leaving by August 31, I think it is probably unreasonable to expect that there will be normal airport operations on September 1.”
Price said the Taliban wanted a functional airport as well and stressed that the operation of the airport after August 31 was “not up to us”. The Pentagon has said several countries are prepared to work with the Taliban to keep the airport operating.
The World Food Program, which manages the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, plans to launch flights over the weekend to create a humanitarian airlift to Afghanistan, said UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric. , to reporters in New York.
“This will involve flights from Pakistan to various airports, outside of Kabul, to Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif,” Dujarric said. “WFP is appealing for approximately $ 18 million for passenger service and $ 12 million for freight airlift.”
Dujarric said it is not clear what will happen at Kabul airport after August 31. He described the airport as essential for the work of the United Nations, which stressed that it was planning to stay in Afghanistan to help those in need.
“It will be up to the Taliban to make sure there is a system in place, security in place, so that Kabul has a functioning airport,” Dujarric said.
The World Food Program said this week that millions of people in Afghanistan were “march towards famine“because the COVID-19 pandemic and the upheavals of this month, in addition to the existing difficulties, are leading the country to disaster.
The World Health Organization said on Friday that medical supplies in Afghanistan would run out within days, with little chance of replenishing them.
“For now, due to security concerns and several other operational considerations, Kabul airport will not be an option for at least next week,” WHO Regional Emergency Director Rick Brennan said. .
As aid groups struggle to keep supply routes open to the country after foreign troops leave on August 31, Afghans trying to leave the country find that the few remaining exits are closed.
Several countries in the European Union have said they have halted evacuation operations from Kabul, and the United States has said that by today (August 30) it will prioritize the withdrawal of its remaining troops and military equipment.
Afghans with valid documents will be able to travel in the future at any time, a senior Taliban official said on Friday (August 27th).