Qatar denies reports on ‘continued’ cooperation in Afghanistan as Taliban eyes investments

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Since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August, Qatar has carried out the largest airlift of people in history by evacuating at least 70,000 Afghans and foreigners.

Authorities in Doha have denied details reported on a meeting in Kabul, in which a Taliban official noted promises of “continued cooperation”.

Qatar said while the meeting did take place, the delegation did not discuss with the Afghan group what the Taliban’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mullah Baradar’s office wrote on Twitter.

A source in the Qatari government told Doha News that the visit focused on the promotion of dialogue.

“The delegation’s visit focused on Qatar’s role as an intermediary to promote international dialogue, ensure humanitarian corridors remain open, and guarantee the basic rights of the Afghan people,” a Qatari official confirmed to Doha News on Sunday.

The statement comes after Taliban officials alleged Qatar’s National Security Advisor Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Misnad said Doha was committed to continue with Afghanistan as a political, economic and social ally.

The Qatari official met with Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s acting first deputy prime minister in Kabul. Acting Minister of Interior Sirajuddin Haqqani, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi, and Acting Minister of Information, and Culture Mullah Khairullah Khairkhah were also in attendance.

Baradar also noted that the country’s commercial and investment facilities have been made available and assured Qatar can invest in Afghanistan’s infrastructural projects.

Separately, Afghanistan’s economic committee ordered relevant ministries to run through the Mining Law at the Economic Commission meeting.

The Chamber of Industries and Mines stated that changing the law will eventually allow for more international investments.

“The involvement of foreign investors, particularly Qatari investments, in the country’s mines, is important, provided that the new rules give more benefits and place a greater emphasis on domestic investments,” said Mohammad Karim Azimi, Executive Director of Kabul Chamber of Industries and Mines.

The Gulf nation’s investments in various sectors in Afghanistan is expected to help alleviate harsh conditions while bolstering income for the government.

Afghanistan “can be saved from poverty and millions of jobs can be created if mines are extracted optimally and legally, have the proper legal framework, and the interests of the Afghan people are properly considered,” said economist Azarakhsh Hafezi, according to the report.

“Investing in Afghanistan’s water and mining sectors is a good and golden opportunity for both international and domestic companies, and such investments may create a lot of jobs,” said Hamidullah Yalani, another such economist.

Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has also asked Doha’s help in boosting investment in Afghanistan as well as fostering economic growth, providing humanitarian aid and helping with counter-narcotic matters.

This is the first visit to Afghanistan by a top Qatari delegation since the United Arab Emirates took over the ground operations at Kabul Airport and three other Afghan airports.

Handling of Afghan airports

A Memorandum of Understanding was inked in Kabul in late May “for the regulation and management of the country’s four airports” by Taliban acting first Deputy Prime Minister Baradar and Razack Aslam Mohammed Abdur Razack of Abu Dhabi-based firm GAAC Solutions.

The agreement applies to various airports, according to the local Bakhtar News Agency.

However, the deal reportedly solely applies to the logistics at the airports and not security, which has been considered a “sticking point” in previous discussions with potential partners to run the sites.

A source with knowledge about the negotiations told Reuters that a “sticking point in the negotiations with Qatar has been Doha’s condition that Qatari security personnel be present at the airport.”

Meanwhile Al Jazeera reported that the Afghan minister said: “We renewed the contract with an Emirati company, which provides services on the ground only, and we did not address the issue of organising and managing Kabul International Airport in these negotiations.”

In late May, the Afghan Acting Minister of Aviation and Transport Hamidullah Akhundzadeh said that negotiations are “underway” with Doha and Ankara to organise and manage Kabul International Airport, adding that his government hopes to attract investments to Afghan airports.