Turkey Says US Can Rely on Turkey Once Troops Leave Afghanistan

Kabul: Amidst talks on handing over responsibilities of the security of Kabul airport to Turkish forces, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said his country would be the “only reliable” country left to stabilize Afghanistan after the US pulls out its troops, indicating Washington could rely on its NATO ally. 

Quoted by AFP, Erdogan said he will discuss the issue in his first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden on the margins of a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday.

“America is preparing to leave Afghanistan soon and from the moment they leave, the only reliable country to maintain the process over there is obviously Turkey,” Erdogan told reporters at an Istanbul airport on Sunday before leaving for Brussels as quoted by AFP.

The withdrawal of US forces as been completed by greater than 50 percent, the US Central Command said last week.

Turkey has reportedly said it is prepared to keep troops in Afghanistan to protect Kabul airport, the main exit route for western diplomats and humanitarian workers.

According to AFP, Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkish officials had informed their American counterparts about Ankara’s plans in Afghanistan after the US troop pullout, without providing details.

They are “pleased and happy. We will be able to discuss the Afghanistan process with them,” he said.

An official from Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said work is underway on a security framework for Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that will be finalized soon, but added that the government so far has not decided whether to hand over the responsibilities of the airport to Turkish forces once all foreign troops depart.

The security of the international airport after the full withdrawal of US and coalition forces has been a major concern for Afghanistan’s allies at NATO, which is expected to discuss the issue in a meeting this week with members of the alliance including Turkey.

The authority pledged that Afghanistan will have the ability to independently conduct airport operations after the withdrawal of troops.

A member of the Taliban negotiating team in Doha told TOLOnews that the possibility of handing over the airport authority to Turkish forces will have a negative impact on the peace negotiations.

The Taliban in a statement last week said the safety of the airport is part of the responsibility of Afghans, and called on all international troops, including Turkey’s forces, to leave Afghanistan under the Doha agreement signed in 2020.

At a press conference on Friday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is talking with different allies, including Turkey, on maintaining support for the international airport in Kabul after the US and coalition forces withdraw from the country.

He said the issue is important not only for NATO: An airport and all the critical infrastructure is important for the whole international community, for the diplomatic presence of all countries, and for development aid and different aid organizations.

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