The Taliban spokesman told Reuters that Turkey should withdraw its troops as part of a deal with the United States for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
Turkey is expected to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan as part of the 2020 agreement for the withdrawal of foreign forces, a Taliban spokesman said, effectively rejecting Ankara’s proposal to keep and manage the airport of Kabul after the departure of the NATO forces led by the United States.
This development raises serious questions for the United States, other countries and international organizations with missions in Kabul on how to safely evacuate their personnel from landlocked Afghanistan, should fighting threaten the capital, a Reuters news agency reported on Thursday.
It also appeared to dash Ankara’s hopes of using Kabul airport security to help improve relations with Washington – strained by Turkey’s purchase of Russian defense systems – in talks scheduled for Monday between President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
When asked in a text message whether the Taliban reject Turkey’s proposal to maintain forces in Kabul to guard and manage the international airport after the departure of other foreign troops, the Taliban spokesman in Doha replied. that they should also go.
“Turkey has been part of NATO forces for the past 20 years, so they are expected to withdraw from Afghanistan on the basis of the agreement we signed with the United States on February 29, 2020,” said Suhail Shaheen at Reuters.
“Otherwise, Turkey is a great Islamic country. Afghanistan has maintained historic relations with him. We hope to have close and good relations with them as a new Islamic government is established in the country in the future, ”he added.
The State Department and Turkey’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters said.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held talks with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday to “discuss bilateral cooperation and regional issues,” the Pentagon said in a statement, which did not specifically mention the Afghanistan.
Under the February 2020 agreement between the Taliban and the United States signed by the administration of former President Donald Trump, all American forces were to be out of Afghanistan by May 1.
But Biden said in April that the pullout would be completed by the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that prompted the United States to invade and overthrow the Taliban government that housed the al-Qaeda group. .
Turkish officials said they made the Kabul airport proposal at a NATO meeting in May, when the United States and its partners agreed on a plan to withdraw its forces by 11 September after 20 years of support for the Afghan government in a war against the Taliban.
With violence raging, many current and former U.S. lawmakers and officials fear the departure of foreign forces and stalled peace talks are pushing Afghanistan into an all-out civil war that could bring the Taliban back to power.
The Pentagon says the US withdrawal is more than 50% complete. Turkey, with more than 500 troops still in Afghanistan to train the security forces, now has the largest foreign military contingent there.
Australia closed its embassy last month for security reasons. The actual rejection by the Taliban of the Turkish airport security plan could encourage other countries to close their missions.
The development also poses a dilemma for the Biden administration, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledging as late as this week at a congressional hearing to maintain a U.S. diplomatic presence in Kabul.