Turkey Says It's Committed to Guarding Kabul Airport After NATO Exit

July 2, 2021

Istanbul — Turkey will likely continue to guard Kabul's airport even after NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan this summer, a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

NATO's US-led Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan government forces will come to an end with the exit of the Western military alliance's troops in September.

Turkey, also a NATO member, has been providing protection for the airport, and Ankara said on Thursday it is willing to keep its troops there to keep up the operation.

The continuation of the Turkish engagement is conceivable under a new UN mandate or on the basis of a bilateral agreement with the Afghan government and the buy-in of the Taliban insurgents.

Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for Erdogan, said Turkey maintains "channels" to the Taliban.

Kabul airport has posed a dilemma for the United States and other countries whose troops are leaving Afghanistan. They are concerned about how to evacuate their personnel, such as diplomats, should fighting spread to the city.

Erdogan had recently linked the continuing presence of Turkish troops to "diplomatic, logistical and financial support" from the United States. The two sides have been in talks on an agreement.

Turkey could also supply security for foreign missions.

The US says it anticipates leaving some of its own troops in Afghanistan to ensure Washington's diplomatic presence in Kabul.

International troops have targeted September 11 as the date by which they will be out of the country.

Two decades ago the US led foreign forces into Afghanistan to root out the Taliban, which had given aid and shelter to members of al-Qaeda, the group behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As NATO troops withdraw, there have been near-daily reports of the Taliban making fresh territorial gains across Afghanistan.

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