ISTANBUL (AP) – Turkey’s Defense Minister said on Friday that negotiations on his country’s proposal to operate and secure Afghanistan’s main international airport were underway.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey was discussing the plan with several countries. “There must be political decisions at the United Nations and NATO, and an agreement must be found with the Afghan government,” he said, adding that Turkey was seeking political, financial and logistical support from various country.
He stressed that a final decision had not yet been made, but that negotiations with the United States were continuing and that the plan would be executed after the approval of the Turkish president.
Earlier this summer, Turkey offered to operate and provide security for Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed this with US President Joe Biden during their first face-to-face meeting at the NATO summit in mid-June.
An agreement to protect the airport has become increasingly urgent as the final withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 US troops and 76,000 allied NATO troops draws to a close. On Friday, all US troops left Bagram Airfield after 20 years. The airfield had been the epicenter of the nationwide military operation to defeat the Taliban and track down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Turkey, a NATO member, has more than 500 troops in Afghanistan and is already playing an important role at the airport. Akar has previously said that Turkey has no plans to deploy more troops.
âThe airport must be open and functioning. If the airport does not work, the embassies will withdraw, and in such a situation, Afghanistan would become an isolated state, âsaid the Minister of Defense.
Without a separate airport agreement, current operations would have to be continued as part of the Resolute Support Mission, which is the current US-led military mission. Until there is an agreement, it is not clear that the United States and NATO can declare their military mission in Afghanistan over.
âWe have announced our intention. We said we can stay if these conditions are met, âAkar said.
The minister’s remarks were relayed by the official Anadolu news agency.
Associated Press editor Kathy Gannon contributed from Kabul, Afghanistan
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