July 25, 2021

Recep Tayyip Erdogan determined to keep Kabul airport safe

As the United States and its allies prepare to leave Afghanistan after twenty years of war, Turkey intends to stay there to secure the Hamid-Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the main access route to the country for Western diplomats and aid workers.

Ensuring the security of this strategic entry point is seen as a priority as US troops retreat and the Taliban gain ground every day. Turkish forces are already responsible for airport security as part of their mission within NATO. Turkey is prepared to maintain this presence in return for logistical and financial support from its allies.

According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Washington and Ankara have agreed on the modalities for maintaining a Turkish force of 500 men there. With this initiative, the Turkish head of state hopes to restore his faded image with the American administration, especially since the purchase of Russian-made S-400 missiles.

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The only downside is that the Taliban are not in favor of the Turkish presence. In recent months, they have repeatedly warned Ankara about its plan to secure Kabul airport, claiming that Turkish soldiers, although representing “A great Islamic nation”, are “Occupants” like the others and that, like the Americans and their allies, they must leave.

Strengthen the role of Ankara

Monday, July 19, Mr. Erdogan put these threats into perspective, explaining that the Taliban had not said “That they did not want Turkey”. Giver of lessons, he ordered the fundamentalist guerrillas to “End the occupation of the country and show the whole world that peace reigns in Afghanistan”. “We appeal to the Taliban: end this occupation”, he insisted.

According to him, discussions are taking place at the moment “Whether at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or at [son] level “ to iron out the reticence of the Taliban. “We try to see what discussions we can have and where these exchanges can lead us”, he told reporters on Monday before leaving for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC, recognized by Ankara only).

Without a prior agreement with the Taliban, Turkey, which maintains several hundred soldiers in place as part of NATO, will find it difficult to carry out its mission. The risks are obvious. On the way to once again becoming the masters of the country, the Taliban could target the airport from a distance with mortar or rocket fire.

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