Turkish, US defense ministers to discuss Kabul airport plan

Turkish, US defense ministers to discuss Kabul airport plan

Turkish, US defense ministers to discuss Kabul airport plan

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said that he will speak over the phone with his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin on July 7 in line with the ongoing talks on the operation and security of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan.

The talks about the details of the mission are still underway, and the airport must become operational, so the Afghan government is not isolated from the world following the pullout, Akar said while speaking to a group of reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday.

“The airport needs to be open and run. If the airport does not work, embassies will be withdrawn. In such a case, Afghanistan will become an isolated state and will experience serious problems in terms of international relations. However, if the airport does not operate rationally, what will those who have to go abroad for education, health and trade do?” he asked.

“From making certain decisions at the United Nations and NATO to reaching an agreement with the Afghan government, as well as political, financial and logistical support, we are in contact with various countries. Meanwhile, our talks with the U.S. are also ongoing,” Akar said.

“No final decision has been made yet, but our talks continue,” he added.

Ankara has offered to run and guard the airport after NATO’s withdrawal and has been in talks with allies, namely the United States, on financial, political and logistical support. Security of the airport is key for the operations of diplomatic missions out of Afghanistan after the withdrawal.

NATO decided to end its 20-year-long mission in Afghanistan in April 2021 following the U.S. decision to withdraw all of its troops from the country until Sept. 11. The reports suggest that Washington has expedited the withdrawal process as the American troops left the Bagram Airport, one of the key bases on the north of Kabul, to the Afghan defense authorities as of July 2.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Joe Biden talked about Turkey’s continued mission in Kabul at a bilateral meeting on June 14 on the sidelines of NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels. Erdoğan had signaled Turkey’s willingness to continue the operation there as a strong member of NATO.

Turkey currently has nearly 500 non-combat troops tasked to provide the security of the Kabul airport. It’s not clear whether the number will be increased after the withdrawal of all allied troops from the country. Turkey has suggested partnering with Hungary and Pakistan in handling the job, but there is no clarity over the scope of the Turkish proposal.