According  to four sources with knowledge of the matter ,The United Arab Emirates has held talks with the Taliban to run Kabul airport, going up against Gulf rival Qatar in a diplomatic tussle for influence with Afghanistan`s new rulers.

The  foreign diplomats based in the Gulf region told Reuters, UAE officials have held a series of discussions with the group in recent weeks to discuss operating the airport that serves as landlocked Afghanistan`s main air link to the world.

The Emiratis are keen to counter diplomatic clout enjoyed there by Qatar, according to the sources who declined to be name due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Two of the diplomats said the Taliban has also sought financial assistance from the UAE, though they added it was not clear if this was related to the airport discussions.

The Qataris have been helping run the Hamid Karzai International Airport along with Turkey after playing a major role in evacuation efforts following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal in August, and have said they are willing to take over the operations.

One key issue that`s still to be resolved between the Taliban and potential airport operators is who would provide security at the site, the four diplomats said. The Taliban say they do not want foreign forces in the country following their return to power after two decades of war.

Still, Qatari special forces are presently providing security within the airport`s perimeter, the diplomats added, while Taliban special forces were patrolling areas outside.

While there is little commercial benefit for any operator, the airport would provide a much-needed source of intelligence on movements in and out of the country, according to the four diplomats, who said that since the withdrawal many countries have lacked real-time information.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and their allies boycotted Qatar for over three years, cutting off political, trade and transport ties, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism – a charge that it denies. The dispute was resolved in January this year.

Qatar has long been the gateway to the Taliban, with Doha hosting the group`s political office since 2013 and negotiations with the U.S. in early 2020 that led to the withdrawal.


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