Taliban proposes that Turkey run Kabul airport, says Erdogan

Turkey’s President Erdogan said calm should be restored in Kabul before Turkey makes its decision on the airport, adding there was a risk of getting “sucked in” to something that would be hard to explain given uncertainty around the possible mission.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the deadly attack in Afghan capital demonstrated the threat that ISIS poses to the region and the world

At the Taliban’s proposal, Turkey may end up running the airport in the Afghan capital Kabul, with the Taliban themselves providing security, but a decision is still pending, the Turkish president said on Friday.

Turkey has not made a final decision on a Taliban request for support to run the Kabul airport after foreign forces withdraw over security concerns and uncertainty in Afghanistan, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, adding talks were still underway.

Officials told Reuters this week that the Taliban had asked Turkey for technical help to run the airport but demanded that Ankara’s military pullout by an August 31 deadline. The military began evacuations on Wednesday.

“The Taliban have proposed that we operate Kabul airport. We have not yet made a decision on this issue,” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid continued evacuations in the wake of Thursday’s deadly terrorist attack just outside the airport grounds.

At a press conference in Istanbul before taking off to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Erdogan condemned the terror attack and stressed that such attacks by ISIS show the grave threat the terror group poses to both the region and the world.

On Thursday, at least one Islamic State suicide bomber killed 85 people including 13 US soldiers outside the gates of Kabul airport.

Erdogan said calm should be restored in Kabul before making a decision on the airport, adding there was a risk of getting “sucked in” to something that would be hard to explain given uncertainty around the possible mission.

He said the heinous attack has made it clear how important security in Afghanistan is, and that the state’s priority for now is the evacuation of Turkish citizens.

Despite the attack, the evacuation of Turkish troops as well as civilians continues and will be completed as soon as possible, the president added.

The ISIS-K terrorist group, the Afghan affiliate of Daesh/ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the attack that claimed the lives of at least 90 people, including 13 US soldiers.

Erdogan’s comments come as US forces helping to evacuate Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule braced for more attacks while racing to complete evacuations before an August 31 deadline set by US President Joe Biden.

NATO member Turkey had hundreds of troops in Afghanistan as part of the alliance’s mission and had been responsible for the security of the airport for the past six years. Ankara has so far evacuated at least 350 soldiers and more than 1,400 people from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover this month.

Turkey has praised what it described as moderate statements by the Taliban since they captured Kabul on August 15. Erdogan on Friday repeated that Ankara will continue holding talks with the Islamist group and would evaluate ties once a new government is formed.

Turkey’s talks with the Taliban

Erdogan said the Turkish Embassy in Afghanistan has been shifted to the military zone inside Kabul airport, where a first meeting between Turkish officials and the Taliban lasted for over three hours.

If necessary, more meetings will be held, and Turkey wants to hold negotiations in a cordial manner, he added.

Erdogan said the meetings are the only way to work on expectations and negotiate, to practice diplomacy.

Just after the Taliban took Kabul, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also proposed working together with Turkey on Afghanistan, said Erdogan.

“Of course, we have frequent meetings with the chancellor as you know, we meet, we review roadmaps,” he added. “But of course it’s clear that they are too late in some things. The decision to work with Turkey was late. While everyone was leaving Afghanistan, we stayed in Kabul. We continued the process there in the most ideal way.”

According to the Interior Ministry, currently there are some 300,000 Afghan immigrants both registered and unregistered in Turkey, he said.

Stressing that Turkey cannot handle another migration wave, he said it has built walls along its borders with Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

The Taliban taking power in Afghanistan has led to thousands of Afghans fearing retribution and uncertainty trying to flee the country.