Reuters - Duvar English
Turkey will not send additional troops to Afghanistan as part of a plan to run and secure Kabul's airport following the U.S. and NATO pull-out from the country, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on June 23.
"At the moment, we already have a presence there and it is out of the question for us to send any soldiers there in any way now," Akar said, referring to some 500 Turkish troops taking part in the NATO mission, and added talks were still underway.
"When these efforts are concluded in the coming period, the necessary measures will be taken and it will become a plan," he said, adding the issue would be discussed with a U.S. delegation in Ankara on June 24.
Turkey has offered to guard and run Hamid Karzai airport after NATO's withdrawal and has been holding talks with allies, namely the United States, on logistic and financial support for the mission.
US delegation to travel to Turkey to discuss airport security
Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Rob Lodewick told Anadolu Agency on June 23 that a U.S. delegation of Pentagon and State Department officials will be in Turkey later this week to discuss security at the Kabul airport.
Lodewick did not give further details about the meeting.
A day earlier, Turkey's National Defense Ministry said the delegation will discuss progress on efforts to keep Afghanistan's Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport operational.
Meanwhile, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on June 23 that the United States and Turkey were discussing the issue on Kabul airport but there is not yet a written agreement.
"I think we're pretty much at the final piece. I don't want to speak for Turkey and I don't want to preempt the outcome of a final agreement but I feel very comfortable that security of the Kabul airport will be maintained, and it's actually a part of that," said Milley, as he testified before the House Armed Services Committee.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the issue at a recent NATO leaders summit in Brussels.
Following his meeting with Biden on June 14, Erdoğan said that Turkey would need “diplomatic, logistic and financial assistance” from the United States if it were to maintain troops in Afghanistan to run Kabul’s international airport.
Last week, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden and Erdoğan agreed that Turkey would take a lead role in securing Kabul airport after the NATO withdrawal.
A Taliban spokesman said this month Turkey should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan under the 2020 deal for the pullout of U.S. forces, but Washington and Ankara have said the plans will press on.