AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Istanbul has agreed with NATO to take responsibility for Hamid Karzai-Kabul International Airport in a $130 million deal, an Afghan government official told The National.

The deal is likely to be widely welcomed after weeks of uncertainty over the Turkish government’s continued commitment to defending Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Hundreds of the NATO member’s troops are already stationed at the airport that provides service to the civilians and military aircraft operation.

As a September 11 total U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal deadline looms and violence surges, the diplomatic community is increasingly concerned over safe travel in and out of Afghanistan.

The details and the exact takeover date are yet to be confirmed, the official said. A second senior source confirmed the deal.

Last month, Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority asked NATO to hand over control of the air traffic control tower at Kabul’s airport, leading to concerns over the Afghan government’s capacity to safely and securely run its international airports after the withdrawal.

“We are struggling with the transition of taking over the airports from NATO control,” a government official said last month.

“We don’t have the capacity to run the airports with Afghans alone due to a lack of expertise, nor do we have the financial ability to bring in private contractors.”

Security fears

Three rockets landed close to Kabul’s airport in December last year, killing one person and injuring two others. The target and the group responsible remain unclear.

In 2016, a suicide bomber targeted Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, the exiled Afghan vice president, near the airport. Fourteen people were killed and 60 injured. ISIS claimed responsibility.