Afghan police return to work alongside Taliban at airport

Published September 13, 2021
POLICEMEN walk past a Taliban fighter (right) outside Kabul airport.—AFP
POLICEMEN walk past a Taliban fighter (right) outside Kabul airport.—AFP

KABUL: Afghan police at Kabul airport have returned to work manning checkpoints alongside Taliban security for the first time since the Islamists seized power, officers said on Sunday.

When the Taliban swept into Kabul last month ousting the government, police abandoned their posts, fearful of what the Islamists would do. But two officers said they had returned to work after receiving calls from Taliban commanders.

On Sunday, a correspondent at the airport saw border police members deployed at several checkpoints outside the main buildings of the airport, including the domestic terminal.

“I came back to work yesterday more than two weeks after being sent home,” one of the police force members said.

“I received a call from a senior Taliban commander who asked me to come back,” another officer said. “Yesterday was great, so happy to serve again.”

The Taliban say they have granted a general amnesty to everyone who worked for the former government — including the army, police and other security branches.

Officials say they want to integrate the opposing forces, but have not spelled out how this will happen — or how they will sustain a security apparatus made up of around 600,000 people.

Kabul airport was severely damaged during the chaotic evacuation of over 120,000 people that ended with the withdrawal of US forces on August 30.

The Taliban, who swept into Kabul after routing government forces on August 15, have been scrambling to get the capital’s airport operating again with Qatari technical assistance.

The United Arab Emirates has set up an air bridge to deliver tons of aid to Afghanistan, with aircraft bringing in hundreds of tonnes of medical and food supplies.

An airport employee who handles security for a private company confirmed that the border police had been deployed around the airport since Saturday. “They are sharing the security with the Taliban,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021

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