Turkey has offered to run Kabul airport after international troops leave Afghanistan

Erdogan urges Taliban to "end the occupation"

PHOTO/AHMED DEEB - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not want to miss out on his slice of the cake in the Afghan conflict.  Following the announcement of the withdrawal of US troops from the Central Asian country and thus the end of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, the administration of Kabul International Airport has been left up in the air. The airport, located in a strategic enclave between the Afghan presidential palace and diplomatic missions, is crucial for maintaining the security of embassies and facilitating the arrival of humanitarian aid.

Turkey, faced with the power vacuum left by the departure of the United States from the Central Asian country, has offered to administer Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. For its part, the US, which was initially reluctant to the idea, finally accepted Turkey's proposal and Biden himself pledged economic and military support to Ankara. However, the Taliban have demanded that Ankara withdraw along with other NATO troops, and have warned Erdogan not to make a "big mistake".


Despite warnings from Afghan insurgents, Erdogan remains determined to shore up Turkey's presence in Afghanistan through the airfield. Speaking to the press before leaving for Cyprus, the Turkish president lashed out at the Taliban, saying they must "end the occupation". "They (the Taliban) have to end the occupation of their brothers' soil and show the world that peace prevails in Afghanistan immediately," Erdogan urged.

The Turkish president also denounced the Taliban's approach as not the way Muslims should deal with each other. Asked about the Taliban's warning to Turkey if it eventually ended up administering the airport, Erdogan explained that "in the statement made by the Taliban there is no phrase 'We don't want Turkey'".  The Turkish president has made it clear that Turkey will maintain its presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international troops and despite the Taliban's warnings.


Earlier this month, US and Turkish national security officials held a series of telephone conversations to discuss "the safe operation of Hamid Karzai International Airport", the Ottoman defence ministry said in a statement. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey's initiatives have met with the approval of several members of the Atlantic organisation. "We are trying to follow the process with our Afghan brothers, NATO, the European Union and the international community," he said.

Minister Akar justified Turkey's presence in the country as part of a long-term mission. Ankara has been in Afghanistan for two decades in a non-combat role and as an accompaniment to the United States. Moreover, it has only been involved in advisory, reconstruction and maintenance work, and has operated the airport for six years.

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The situation in Afghanistan is increasingly complicated. The Taliban launched an offensive in May after the announcement of the withdrawal of international troops from the Central Asian country, and the insurgent group now claims to control 85% of the territory. Last weekend, peace talks resumed in Doha between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban, but they have once again been left up in the air and have only agreed to "continue talks", while the country suffers a maelstrom of violence that is already beginning to affect neighbouring countries.