Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: Keeping Kabul airport open is important for aid supplies

Filed on August 31, 2021

The Taliban officials took to the sole runway of the airport to celebrate the moment on Tuesday. One president’s triumph is another country’s loss.

The US troops have left Afghanistan on schedule and ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. US President Joe Biden, after all, stood by his word, despite the recent carnage in Kabul that killed 79 civilians and 13 US service people and desperate plea of Afghans wanting more support on the ground to leave their home country. Thousands flooded the airport and tried clinging on to airplanes in a bid to flee. Even the bombs failed to deter the crowds looking to escape the hopelessness of the situation. If anything, the recent attack at the airport and the departure of the last US evacuation aircraft intensifies the concern that the country will again become a haven for militant groups. The Taliban officials took to the sole runway of the airport to celebrate the moment on Tuesday. One president’s triumph is another country’s loss. The long-term impact of this move is hard to assess as of now but what’s clear is the desperation of thousands of Afghans who had worked for Western militaries and other entities. They are now at the risk of Taliban reprisals. Does anyone care?

The weapons have just shifted from the military realm to the diplomatic realm, said the US commander of Central Command, but how much negotiation is possible with this regime is anyone’s guess. A foe is turning into a political adversary, who refuses to play by the book. The Qatar government had been providing a neutral ground for discussions with the Taliban over the last few years, and even then it has been unable to convince the group on allowing foreign security presence at Kabul airport to enable the transport hub to reopen to commercial flights. In the absence of a non-functioning airport, further evacuation of foreigners and Afghans becomes a concern.

Keeping the airport open is vital not just for Afghanistan to stay connected to the world but also to maintain aid supplies and operations.

Over half of Afghanistan’s population at 18 million need aid and support. Since the Taliban took control, the economy has been in a tailspin. Food prices have hit the roof, banks are shut, there is a severe shortage of cash, and salaries are not being paid. Afghans are struggling through an economic meltdown, which could spiral into widespread hunger in a short span. How the country fares will depend on the relations between the Taliban and other countries. Engagement with its neighbours such as Iran and Pakistan and countries in Europe and America could offer hope and pave the way for aid to start reflowing into the country. Diplomacy will be at the forefront. How much trust can the Taliban build when their intentions do not match their actions on the ground is something that remains to be seen. The end of this forever war hasn’t resulted in forever peace. The Taliban are back in power and so are the memories of the time they ruled in the late 1990s. Will they make a difference this time?

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