Taliban warn Turkey of ‘reprehensible’ plan to run Kabul airport



An aerial view of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, formerly known as Kabul International Airport, in Afghanistan, February 11, 2016. REUTERS / Ahmad Masood / File Photo

  • Turkey, US in talks on airport surveillance after withdrawal
  • If deal is reached, Taliban say they will ‘take a stand’
  • Turkish source expects deal ahead of September departure

KABUL / ANKARA, July 13 (Reuters) – The Taliban warned Turkey on Tuesday against plans to keep some troops in Afghanistan to guard Kabul’s main airport after foreign troops withdrew, calling the strategy “reprehensible” and warning of the “consequences”.

Ankara, which offered to manage and keep the capital’s airport after NATO pulls out, is in talks with the United States over financial, political and logistical support. Read more

Turkey reiterated that the airport must remain open to preserve diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, where an explosion rocked Kabul on Tuesday and clashes escalated across the country. Read more

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan condemns this reprehensible decision,” the Taliban said in a statement, referring to Turkey’s plan.

“If the Turkish officials do not review their decision and continue the occupation of our country, the Islamic Emirate (…) will take a stand against them.

In this case, the activist group added, the responsibility for the consequences would fall on the shoulders of those who interfere.

The Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, have fought for 20 years to overthrow the West-backed government in Kabul and re-impose the Islamic regime.

Emboldened by the departure of foreign forces by a September objective, they made a new push to surround the towns and gain territory.

Afghan Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday evening that Turkey had agreed on certain points with its US counterparts on the management of the airport and that the search for an agreement was continuing.

“The airport must remain open, be operated. All countries are saying so. If the airport is not functioning, countries will have to withdraw their diplomatic missions there,” he said.

Talks now involving the ministries are expected to be completed by the time US forces leave, a senior Turkish official told Reuters. “We still believe that there will be an agreement on the airport. We want to side with the Afghan people,” the official said.

Police said an explosion rocked a busy area of ​​Kabul on Tuesday, killing four and injuring five. It was not clear who was behind the explosion or the target.

Clashes continued in southern Kandahar province, provincial council member Attaullah Atta said, as the Taliban were pushed back after an attempt to break into a prison in the city.

Hundreds of families have fled the violence, he added.

Mohammad Daoud Farhad, director of Kandahar Provincial Hospital, said he had received eight dead and more than 30 people, mostly civilians, injured in clashes in the past 24 hours.

Early Tuesday, Afghan security forces withdrew from Alingar district in eastern Laghman province, a local government official said on condition of anonymity.

A ceasefire pact with the district’s Taliban failed in May.

On Monday, the Taliban surrounded the central city of Ghazni and launched attacks overnight in their latest offensive against a provincial capital, a local security official said, before being pushed back by Afghan forces. L1N2OO18A

Report from the Afghanistan office and Orhan Coskun and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Daren Butler and Nick Macfie

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