Kabul: In a big development, a Taliban spokesperson on Friday stated that Turkey should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan under the 2020 deal for the pullout of US forces, effectively rejecting Ankara’s proposal to guard and run Kabul’s airport after US-led NATO forces depart.
As per a Reuters report, the development raises serious questions for the United States, other countries and international organizations with missions in Kabul about how to securely evacuate their personnel from landlocked Afghanistan should fighting threaten the capital. It also appeared to smash Ankara’s hopes of using the securing of Kabul airport to help improve ties with Washington – strained by Turkey’s purchase of Russian defense systems – in talks set for Monday between President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Asked in a text message whether the Taliban rejected Turkey’s proposal to keep forces in Kabul to guard and run the international airport after other foreign troops leave, the Taliban spokesman in Doha responded that they should go as well. “Turkey was part of NATO forces in the past 20 years, so as such, they should withdraw from Afghanistan on the basis of the Agreement we signed with US on 29th Feb 2020,” Suhail Shaheen told Reuters.
“Otherwise, Turkey is a great Islamic country. Afghanistan has had historical relations with it. We hope to have close and good relations with them as a new Islamic government is established in the country in future,” he added.
Meanwhile, the United States believes keeping an international diplomatic presence in Kabul requires a “functioning, secure” airport, a US State Department spokesperson said on Friday, suggesting that embassies could be forced to close without one.
The statement came a day after a Taliban spokesman effectively rejected Turkey’s proposal that its troops remain to guard and run the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the departure of the rest of the US-led foreign force. Australia shuttered its embassy in Kabul last month because of security concerns. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week vowed to keep the US embassy open.
President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw from America’s longest war, stalled peace talks and unrelenting violence are fueling fears that Afghanistan is headed into an all-out civil war that could return the Taliban to power.
Biden is expected to discuss the issue when he holds talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels on Monday.