Turkish President Erdoğan pays historic visit to Afghanistan

Turkish President Erdoğan pays historic visit to Afghanistan

Turkish President Erdoğan pays historic visit to Afghanistan

Ghani welcomed Erdoğan in the presidential palace with a military ceremony. DHA photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has arrived in Afghanistan, as the latest world leader to visit the war-ravaged country since President Ashraf Ghani took power after a prolonged political standoff.

Erdoğan met Ghani, his first vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum, and his former poll rival Abdullah Abdullah, who took the new role of "chief executive," on Oct. 18.

Ghani welcomed Erdoğan in the presidential palace with a military ceremony. During the press conference after the talks, two leaders stressed the importance of bilateral relations between their countries and vowed go further cement historic bonds.

Ghani was sworn in as the new Afghan president in late September after a fraud-tainted election that had plunged Afghanistan into months of political deadlock and threatened to take it on the brink of civil war.

"The Afghan people voted to form an administration for the first time. The people's free will is manifested," President Erdoğan said, praising Ghani's contribution to the Afghan democracy.

During his one-day tour Erdoğan also visited Turkish troops based in Afghanistan. 

Turkey, which shares religious, historic and cultural ties with Afghanistan, in particular with the Afghan Uzbek community, is also involved in NATO operations with around 390 soldiers and trainers based in the country.

Turkey has refused to take on any combat missions in Afghanistan, fearing a Muslim backlash, with its troops primarily involved in providing security, reconstruction and training.

Turkey has been cited as a potential mediator for negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban insurgents.

British Prime minister David Cameron visited Afghanistan early this month to hold talks with Ghani as NATO-led international troops end their long war against the Taliban.

About 40,000 NATO troops are serving in Afghanistan, but their combat mission is scheduled to finish at the end of this year.

NATO’s follow-up mission, which will take over on January 1, will be made up of 9,800 US troops and about 3,000 soldiers from Germany, Italy and other member nations, among them Turkey.

The new mission -- named "Resolute Support" -- will focus on supporting Afghan forces as they take on the militants, in parallel with US counter-terrorism operations.

İbrahim Kalın, Erdoğan's deputy chief of staff, told Al Jazeera that this is the first official visit to Afghanistan by a Turkish president. 

Kalın also said that Turkey will contribute to the Resolute Support by sending 700 Turkish soldiers.

The Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan trio will possibly meet in 2015 again, Kalın added. "Our President will bring the offer to the table [in Afghanistan]."

Erdoğan chose Afghanistan as the sixth country to visit as Turkey's President.