Days after Turkey offered to manage Kabul airport following NATO's withdrawal, a Taliban spokesman has rejected the Turkish proposal. He also urged Ankara to leave the country along with the rest of the NATO troops. He reminded Turkey of the 2020 agreement signed by the US government, its NATO allies and the Taliban in which they agreed to the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Afghanistan by 11 September, the symbolic date commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 2001 attacks and the main reason for the US intervention in the country. "The time has come to end America's longest war," said President Joe Biden. The Taliban, for their part, agreed not to allow Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups to operate inside the territories they control. .
Unlike the US, which began withdrawing its troops last May, Turkey still has 500 troops on Afghan territory. These troops are engaged in training local security agents.
"Turkey was part of NATO forces for the last 20 years, so they should withdraw from Afghanistan on the basis of the agreement we signed with the United States on 29 February 2020," Suhail Shaheen told Reuters. However, Shaheen has expressed a desire to maintain good relations with Ankara "as a new Islamic government is established in the country". "Turkey is a great Islamic country," the spokesman stressed.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar offered political, financial and logistical support in Afghanistan from September. "We want to stay and help as long as the Afghan people want us to," Akar said. He referred in particular to the management of the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Ankara had already presented its plans to Washington with the aim of bringing it closer to its Western partners. "Staying in Afghanistan is not a responsibility that a single country can take on without support," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state media TRT. Cavusoglu reiterated the need to "share" this permanence project, arguing that there are security risks as well as a "serious financial cost".
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Washington and Ankara had held talks on the security of Kabul airport. Kirby said stability there "will be important not only for the United States but also for other nations to maintain their diplomatic presence in Kabul".
Meanwhile, on 14 June, Biden and Erdogan will meet at the NATO summit in Brussels. Despite sanctions and tensions over issues such as Syria and Ankara's purchase of military equipment from Russia, Erdogan has declared that this meeting 'will be the beginning of a new era'. The Turkish president also alluded to the "great potential for cooperation with the United States" on issues such as counter-terrorism and trade. "We value our long-standing, deep-rooted and multidimensional partnership with the United States," Erdogan added.
Washington is also looking forward to the future meeting. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki called the meeting "a priority" for Biden. US officials have said the president looks forward to the opportunity to "review the full breadth of the relationship".
The Afghan issue will undoubtedly be one of the topics to be discussed between the two leaders, especially now that the Taliban have expressed their rejection of Ankara's proposal. Moreover, maintaining security in the country after the withdrawal of troops could become a strong point of common ground between the two countries. On the other hand, there is the part of the Afghan population that does not support NATO's withdrawal. Many citizens are uncertain about the future, as withdrawal may pose new security threats. Also, power struggles between influential groups may become more acute as the Taliban increases its power.
The departure of the last troops from Afghanistan comes in the middle of a new wave of violence. In recent weeks 150 Afghan soldiers have been killed by the Taliban. On the other hand, Daesh remains a powerful force, as Ross Wilson, the senior US diplomat in Kabul, points out. The terrorist group has been responsible for recent attacks on schools and religious temples. Also important to note is the difficult situation of women and girls in the country. Last May 85 girls were killed in an attack on their school. Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International's campaigner in Afghanistan, warned of the risks to women, including young girls and students, in the new scenario in the country. "After fighting tirelessly for two decades to have their fundamental rights recognised, Afghan women face the prospect of seeing these gains traded away," Hamidi said.