The Taliban have seized six provincial capitals in a single day, which translates into control of 16 Afghan capitals

Erdogan defends his continued control of Kabul airport

AP/RAHMAT GUL - Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan

Afghanistan continues to fall to the Taliban offensive. In the last few hours the insurgents have taken the citadel of Kandahar, capital of the province of the same name and the second largest city in the country. Along with Kandahar, the citadel of Herat (the third largest city in the country), Quala-e-Naw, Lashkar Gah, Firozkoh, Tarinkot, Qalat and Pul-e-Alam have fallen, making Pul-e-Alam the sixteenth provincial capital under Taliban control. The capture of Kandahar has been a turning point in the offensives as it may lead to the rapid fall of the other provinces. Moreover, these seizures of control have brought a large part of southern and western Afghanistan to the brink of collapse.

In view of this situation, and according to different media citing diplomatic sources in Doha, Qatar, the Afghan government has reportedly proposed a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban in exchange for a ceasefire. For its part, the US Embassy in Kabul has already asked all its nationals to leave the country "immediately". These warnings have been joined by Canada, which, according to the Canadian media Global News, is preparing to send Special Operations Forces to Afghanistan to evacuate its democratic personnel. 

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However, in a joint statement, the US Secretaries of State and Defence said they had held a series of talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, assuring him that "the United States remains committed to the security and stability of Afghanistan".

While the government has reportedly asked India for help, the Afghan Foreign Ministry has also requested assistance from Russia along with the purchase of military helicopters, according to Interfax.

On the other hand, given the vacuum of influence left by the withdrawal of international troops and the chaos unleashed by the insurgent offensives, Turkey is taking advantage of the situation to take root and extend its economic and political influence in the country, as part of what would be "a broader strategy".  In addition, Erdogan wants to set himself up as an alternative mediator capable of putting an end to the Taliban offensives. In a television interview with CNN he stated that there would be "the possibility of meeting with the Taliban leader as part of efforts to end the fighting in Afghanistan". 

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In this vein, Turkey continues to maintain contact with the Taliban to try to keep Turkish troops in Afghanistan under the pretext of securing Kabul airport. In this vein, Erdogan reported that Turkey is considering "managing the operations of Kabul airport" and noted that "it is a new era, now there are three main authorities in this: NATO, the United States and Turkey". In this sense, Turkey would like to maintain the "airport protection" mission, which would allow it to become an important and necessary actor in Afghanistan.

Alongside this, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar stressed that "the main objective of the airport operation is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming an isolated country". He noted that there were statements that "in case of the closure of Kabul airport, all diplomatic missions will be withdrawn. We are all aware that our Afghan brothers do not want this situation either, so it would be beneficial to keep the airport open," he added.

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Erdogan further argues that the US supports Ankara's guaranteeing the airport's security and the Turkish authorities maintaining "some conditions", including "diplomatic support" from Washington.

"Our relevant institutions are making efforts that may go to the point of holding some meetings with the Taliban ... I can even meet with someone who is in power," Erdogan added.

Just as Turkey tried to use the Syrian civil war to structure its influence and power in the country, Erdogan's government is reportedly attempting the same manoeuvre in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, with a population of over 38 million, would present itself in this delicate situation as an ideal scenario for Turkey to start implementing economic measures, in addition to promoting its military arsenal. 

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Ankara's interest in establishing a strong relationship with the Taliban would be part of a broader vision aimed at strengthening Turkish influence in Central Asia, benefiting from historical ties. In this sense, Turkey's strategy would revolve around transforming countries with a shared history into a regional economic and commercial hub, which will benefit the most from its capabilities. Thus, rapprochement with the Taliban in Turkey would provide an important opportunity for the Ottoman country to lead the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan and prioritise its infrastructure in the country.

On the other hand, Pakistan would be supportive of the Turkish presence. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in several statements to foreign media that, after a conversation with the Turkish Defence Minister, "efforts would be made to facilitate talks between the Taliban and Ankara". He added that "the best thing is for Turkey and the Taliban to have a direct dialogue so that the two sides can talk about the reasons why it is necessary to secure Kabul airport," he added.

In this way, Ankara would be benefiting from the rapid collapse of government forces and the Taliban's progress, a situation that has led Western countries to demand that their citizens leave Afghanistan immediately, which would give Turkey more power to establish itself in the area in the face of the cessation of Western presence in the territory. 

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