Turkish troops’ Afghan mission to end when Kabul says ‘okay:’ Erdoğan
ANKARA - Anadolu Agency
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani shake hands after a news conference at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. Ghana is in Turkey for a two-day state visit.(AP Photo)Turkey will recall its troops from Afghanistan whenever Kabul gives its “okay,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Dec. 24.
Addressing a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani in Ankara, Erdoğan said, “Afghanistan has been hurt seriously and we will continue to help them heal these wounds.
“Our armed forces have been in Afghanistan for security purposes from the beginning and now, as you know, we have a [training] mission there. We will continue obeying the chronological schedule decided by our Afghan brothers in accordance with the negotiations. We will recall our soldiers when Afghanistan says ‘okay.’”
The Turkish parliament authorized the government on Jan. 6 to continue posting Turkish troops in Afghanistan for two more years under a new NATO mission called Resolute Support, which was launched on Jan. 1.
As the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force ended its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the mission has evolved into training and advising of the nascent Afghan security forces.
“This is a training, advice and assistance mission,” Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz had said on Jan. 6, adding, “There will be no combatant operations.”
Ghani thanked Turkey for its support, especially in the security sphere.
“Turkish soldiers have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us,” Ghani acknowledged. “Once again, we would like to thank you as you have stood by the Afghan people.”
Erdoğan also emphasized that Turkey’s cooperation with Afghanistan in political, economic, commercial and cultural fields would also continue.
Turkey and Afghanistan signed three agreements, including a memorandum of understanding on political solidarity, security cooperation and a declaration of will for the construction of a Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi Turkish-Afghan University campus in Kabul.
“Cooperating with our old friend and eternal brother Afghanistan is very important for Turkey,” Erdoğan said.
Ghani called for more economic and cultural cooperation between Turkey and Afghanistan. He also appreciated investments coming in from Turkish investors.
He also recalled the fifth Heart of Asia conference held in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Dec. 8 and noted that a general framework had been created to counter terrorism.
He also underlined the importance of the TAPI pipeline project to link Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Before making the remarks, the Turkish president also held a detailed meeting with Ghani.