Turkey still keen to run Kabul airport despite Taliban advances, US 'grateful'
Turkey is for now still intent on running and guarding Kabul airport after other foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan, but is monitoring the situation after rapid advances by Taliban forces, two Turkish officials said. Earlier, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said that the U.S. is "grateful" that Turkey has indicated a willingness to play a role in protecting the airport.
Duvar English - Reuters
Turkey is for now still intent on running and guarding Kabul airport after other foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan, but is monitoring the situation after rapid advances by Taliban forces, two Turkish officials said.
Taliban fighters took control of another city in northern Afghanistan on Aug. 11, the eighth provincial capital to fall to the insurgents in six days as U.S.-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal.
Turkey has offered to deploy troops at Kabul airport after NATO withdraws and has held talks with the United States for weeks. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has asked it to meet financial, logistical and diplomatic conditions.
"For now nothing has changed regarding the TAF (Turkish Armed Forces) taking control of Kabul Airport. The talks and the process are continuing," a senior Turkish official told Reuters.
"Work is continuing on the basis that the transfer will happen, but of course the situation in Afghanistan is being followed closely," he said.
The Taliban have warned Turkey against keeping troops in Afghanistan to guard the airport but Ankara has maintained its stance.
"There is no change in view concerning the taking control of Kabul Airport. But the situation in Afghanistan is changing from day to day," a Turkish security official said, adding that Turkey was assessing developments.
Earlier, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said that the U.S. is "grateful" that Turkey has indicated a willingness to protect the Kabul airport.
During a press briefing on Aug. 10, Price was asked whether the U.S. has second thoughts on Turkey's proposal to run the airport since the Taliban has rapidly taken over many parts of the country and that it now controls 65 percent of Afghanistan.
"A secure, operational airport we feel is integral to our ability to have a functioning diplomatic presence on the ground. So the safety, the security, the continuing operation of that airport – it is of high importance to us," Price said.
"We are grateful that our Turkish partners have indicated a willingness to play a role in protecting that. Of course, Afghan Security Forces have an important role to play, too. But nothing that we have seen diminishes the importance we place on a functioning, safe, secure Hamid Karzai International Airport," the spokesperson noted.
When asked whether the U.S. side picked up any hesitancy from Ankara on the issue, Price said the discussions are currently being led by the Department of Defense.
"This is an issue that we have discussed, including at the highest levels, with our Turkish allies. President Biden, of course, discussed it with his counterpart, with President Erdoğan. The department has discussed it on multiple levels. It is now principally a discussion that the Department of Defense is leading," Price said.
"As we always do, we keep those discussions in confidence, but we do appreciate Turkey’s willingness to take on an important role," he added.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said last week that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) is ready to operate the Hamid Karzai Airport if the conditions are met by its interlocutors.
“If the conditions are met, we are willing to run this airport to meet the security, peace and necessities of our Afghan brothers, to support our Afghan brothers. Our discussions are ongoing on the matter,” Akar said.