In recent weeks, UAE officials have met with Taliban representatives to discuss operating the Kabul airport, which serves as Afghanistan’s principal air link to the rest of the world.
According to a report close to the situation, the UAE has held conversations with the Taliban about running Kabul airport, placing itself against Gulf competitor Qatar in a diplomatic battle for influence with Afghanistan’s new leadership.
According to Western diplomats located in the Gulf region, UAE authorities have held a series of meetings with the organization in recent weeks to discuss operating the airport that serves as Afghanistan’s principal air link to the rest of the world.
The meetings show how countries are attempting to assert their influence in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, despite the fact that the hardline Islamist group is mainly considered a global pariah and its government is not formally recognized by any country.
According to a report who declined to be identified due to the delicacy of the topic, the Emiratis are eager to challenge Qatar’s diplomatic clout in the region.
The Qataris have been helping Turkey in running the Hamid Karzai International Airport after playing a significant part in evacuation efforts following the chaotic US withdrawal in August and have stated that they are eager to take over the operations.
According to the four diplomats, the Taliban has not yet formalized an agreement with Qatar.
The UAE, which previously administered Kabul airport during the US-backed Afghan republic, “remains committed to continuing to assist in operating” it to provide humanitarian access and safe transit, according to a senior Emirati foreign ministry official.
Abu Dhabi aided in recent evacuation attempts as well.
Requests for comment from the Qatari authorities and Taliban were not returned.
Two of the diplomats said the Taliban had asked the UAE for financial support, though it was not clear whether this was related to the airport talks.
Salem Al Zaabi, head of international security cooperation at the Emirati foreign ministry, did not react to a query about whether the UAE was considering providing financial assistance to the Taliban.
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