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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Erdogan: Turkey to retain presence at Kabul airport with Qatar

Turkish President Erdogan has vowed to support Afghanistan as long as it maintains the same goodwill to work together. The Taliban has reached a middle ground with Turkey over its request for Turkish forces to secure the Kabul airport.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poured cold water Sunday over a plan in which Turkey operates Kabul airport and the Taliban provides security, adding Ankara would be in a tough position if another attack occurs.

Turkey had long planned to help secure and run the Afghan capital’s airport but appeared to drop the idea when it started Wednesday to withdraw its approximately 500 non-combat troops from Afghanistan.

Erdogan on Friday said Turkey had held its first talks with the Taliban in Kabul, adding that Ankara was still assessing the Islamist group’s offer for Turkey to run the airport’s logistics.

“What does the Taliban say with regard to the airport issue? They say ‘give us the security but you operate it,” Erdogan said in comments published by the official Anadolu news agency and other media outlets.

“How come we hand you over the security?” Erdogan added.

“Let’s say you took over the security but how would we explain to the world if another bloodbath takes place there? It’s not an easy job.”

Read More: Turkey likely to maintain footprint at Kabul airport

More than 100 people died in the suicide attack on Thursday outside Kabul airport, including 13 US service personnel, slowing down the airlift ahead of US President Joe Biden’s deadline for evacuations to end by Tuesday.

Fresh terror attack warnings have rattled evacuation efforts overseen by US forces and Biden has warned another attack on the frantic airlift was “highly likely.”

Turkey has completed its evacuation operation while moving its embassy from the airport back to its original compound, Erdogan said.

“We are planning right now to maintain our diplomatic presence,” he said but added plans were constantly being updated depending on the security situation.

“We keep ready all our necessary alternative plans. Our priority is the safety of our personnel.”

Read More: Pakistan, Turkey and Iran experts converse on “inclusive” Kabul govt at Devcom

Turkey’s draft deal with the Taliban

Both sides have come to a resolution that has entailed a draft deal. The salient points to be noted are that Turkey shall recognise the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, that Qatar and Turkey shall be functional at the airport through a consortium, and that Turkey shall provide security via a private firm. Moreover, the additional members of Turkey’s special forces cannot leave the airport parameters.

So far the Turkish embassy is operative in Kabul with its diplomatic personnel present.

Read More:The Triumph of the Afghan Taliban: a double-barreled gun for China- Pakistan?

© AFP with additional inputs from GVS