UAE company to run flight services at Afghan airports
ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban and Abu Dhabi-based GAAC Solutions on Thursday signed a contract for the Emirati company to provide flight services and handle planes landing and taking off at major airports in Afghanistan.
The deal on flight guidance services will also include equipping facilities and training Afghan personnel at the country’s three main airports, including that in the capital Kabul, the Taliban said.
The other two airports covered by the deal are in the western cities of Herat and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan and the heartland of the Taliban during the insurgents’ 20-year war with the US and NATO forces.
The Taliban have faced fierce international criticism of their rule since seizing the country in August 2021 in the final weeks of the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan. Since the Taliban takeover, the government of Qatar has agreed to represent the United States in the Taliban-ruled country, following the closure of the US embassy in Kabul.
Taliban-appointed deputy prime minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said at the agreement’s signing ceremony in Kabul on Thursday that “strengthening the economy is a priority for the government.”
“This agreement will have a positive effect on trade and the economic growth of the country,” he added.
The international community, suspicious of the harsh Taliban regime when it was in power more than 20 years ago, refused official recognition of the Taliban government and Afghanistan’s assets abroad were frozen.
Acting Taliban Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Hamidullah Akhundzada said the main purpose of the contract was to develop air services for flights and provide services at airports.
In March, the same company signed its first agreement to manage ground handling at the same airports. At the time, Baradar described the arrangement as the renewal of a ground handling agreement with the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways.
GAAC Solutions reportedly signed a $47 million service contract in 2020 with the then US-backed Afghan government to manage the country’s airports, including ground handling, information technology and security.
GAAC Solutions once described itself on a one-page website as an Abu Dhabi-based joint venture whose partners include the G42 firm, which is believed to have the backing of the Emirati capital’s ruling family. G42, however, said it was no longer part of GAAC Solutions. A phone number or contact information for GAAC Solutions could not immediately be found on Thursday.