- Turkey decides on a Taliban request to help run Kabul’s airport.
- Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says discussions with Taliban under way.
- The talks were held at military facility at Kabul airport where Turkey’s embassy is stationed.
Turkey held its first talks with the Taliban regarding assistance in running the capital city airport today at a military facility at the Kabul’s airport where Turkey’s embassy is temporarily stationed.
According to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara was still assessing Taliban’s offer to assist in operating Hamid Karzai International Airport (KBL) in Kabul and more talks would perhaps be needed before the decision is made.
“We have held our first talks with the Taliban, which lasted three and a half hours,” Erdogan said. “If necessary, we will have the opportunity to hold such talks again.”
Turkey had hundreds of troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission, and had been responsible for the security of the airport for the past six years.
Responding to domestic criticism over Turkey’s engagement with the terrorist group, Erdogan said Ankara had “no luxury” to stand idly by in the volatile region.
“You cannot know what their expectations are or what our expectations are without talking. What’s diplomacy, my friend? This is diplomacy,” Erdogan said.
Turkey had been planning to help secure and run Kabul’s strategic airport, but on Wednesday it started pulling troops out of Afghanistan – an apparent sign of Ankara abandoning this goal.
Erdogan said the Taliban now wanted to oversee security at the airport, while offering Ankara the option of running its logistics.
He said the twin suicide bombs that killed at least 110 people, including 13 US troops, outside the airport during the last days of an urgent evacuation effort on Thursday showed the importance of knowing the details of how the air hub will be secured.
Erdogan said calm should be restored in Kabul before making a decision on the airport, adding there was a risk of getting “sucked in” to something that would be hard to explain given uncertainty around the possible mission.
“Taliban said: ‘We will ensure the security, you operate the airport’. We have not made any decision on this issue yet,” Erdogan said.
Ankara has so far evacuated at least 350 soldiers and more than 1,400 people from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover this month.
Erdogan, who previously criticized the Taliban as it swept through the country en route to Kabul, said Turkey was aiming to complete evacuations and troop withdrawals as quickly as possible.