Turkish FM stresses continued support in Afghanistan
KABUL – Anadolu Agency
AA photoTurkey will continue supporting Afghanistan, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, adding that Ankara could deploy more soldiers to Afghanistan if needed.
“We are for the continuation of the determined support mission in 2017 and beyond. We have more than 700 troops in Afghanistan. We will not decrease this number. We could even increase this figure if there is a need,” said Çavuşoğlu, during an official visit to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on June 16.
According to diplomatic sources speaking anonymously due to restrictions on speaking with the media, Çavuşoğlu first met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in his office.
During the meeting, Ghani thanked Çavuşoğlu for Turkey’s military support, mentioning the longstanding and close relationship between Turkey and Afghanistan.
Turkey’s support for Afghanistan comes at a time when NATO agreed on June 15 to hold onto its broad geographic layout of bases in Afghanistan, a move which could make it easier for the United States to keep more troops there as Kabul struggles with a resurgent Taliban threat.
NATO defense ministers who gathered in Brussels signaled a willingness to stay in the country, with British Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon saying flatly at a news conference: “This is the wrong time to walk away from Afghanistan.”
Fallon said U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the ministers during closed-door talks that U.S. troop levels were again being reviewed.
Carter declined to confirm that at a news conference, saying it was “not a topic of discussion.” He said U.S. President Barack Obama would be willing to consider the security conditions in Afghanistan and their impact on force levels later in the year. “I expect he will do that again as the year goes on,” Carter said.
Çavuşoğlu also met with Afghanistan’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, who shares executive power with Ghani.
Abdullah stressed that Afghanistan and Turkey shared religious and cultural ties and that he hoped these ties were strengthened.
Çavuşoğlu also later met with his counterpart, Salahuddin Rabbani.
In a press conference afterwards, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey was eager to improve economic relations by bolstering development projects in Afghanistan.
Rabbani, for his part, said they discussed counter-terrorism efforts, trade and the economy.
“Turkey has provided $277 million in financial aid to Afghanistan since 2001. The trading volume between the two countries in 2012 was nearly $300 million. We will increase this amount,” said Rabbani.
“Turkey is also helping Afghanistan in educational areas. A number of young Afghan people have been trained in Turkey in both the military and other fields,” he added.