Turkey-US kick of talks for Kabul airport
Sevil Erkuş- ANKARA
The two-day discussions between Ankara and Washington for the rules of engagement on operating and securing the Kabul international airport in Afghanistan started on June 24 in Ankara.
“It is in question that the responsibility of operating the Hamid Karzai airport, which we have been carrying out for six years, will be continued by us if the necessary conditions are met. The U.S. technical delegation arrived at our ministry today. Our negotiations have started and will continue,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters on June 24.
Ankara asks the U.S. to meet the airport operating cost, which varies between $80 million and $130 million annually, security sources told Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.
Turkey also wants that some of the defense facilities of the U.S. military for the security of the airport to remain in Kabul and that the U.S. Army to continue with logistics support, the sources added.
Ankara expects the mission should have an international statute and proposes the involvement of the Pakistani army in this context.
“Discussions on this matter are continuing. No decisions have been reached for now,’’ Akar said. “We want to achieve the best result for the interests of our country and those of Afghanistan. That’s what we are working for. We aim to continue working for the security, peace and welfare of our Afghan brothers,” he added.
Turkey proposed to secure and manage the airport in Kabul after the NATO troops end its mission as a Resolute Support Mission in September.
The issue was also discussed at the NATO Leaders’ Summit held in Brussels, as well as the tête-à-tête meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Joe Biden.
As part of the NATO Resolute Support Mission, Turkey has been operating the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan for six years.
Turkey, as a Muslim-majority nation and as a member of the Western alliance, has played a key role in Afghanistan since 2001, including sending troops in non-combat roles, and more recently, welcoming Taliban and government officials for talks on the country’s future.
In its first reaction, the Taliban expressed its opposition to any foreign troops remaining in Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO forces leave the war-torn country.
Turkey has 500 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.
Biden announced that his country’s troops would start to withdraw from Afghanistan as of May 1. The withdrawal will be completed by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.