Turkish Troops Guarding Kabul Airport Pose Dilemma for US

The US wants Turkey to secure the airport after the withdrawal so the US embassy can stay open, but the Taliban wants Turkey to leave

As the US is pulling combat troops out of Afghanistan, Washington is looking to keep a diplomatic presence at its embassy in Kabul. Part of that plan involves securing the Kabul airport, which is currently being guarded by hundreds of Turkish troops.

The US wants the Turkish troops to stay, and Ankara is looking for concessions from the US to leave the soldiers behind. But the Taliban on Thursday warned that if Turkish troops remain at the airport, it would be a violation of the Doha agreement that calls for all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan.

“Turkey was part of NATO forces in the past 20 years, so as such, they should withdraw from Afghanistan on the basis of the agreement we signed with US on 29th Feb 2020,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said.

Responding to the Taliban’s comments, a US State Department spokesperson said the US diplomatic presence requires a “functioning” and “secure” airport.

“We underscore that a functioning, secure airport is essential to any international diplomatic presence and will benefit Afghan travelers and the Afghan economy,” the spokesperson said, according to Reuters.

The spokesperson did not elaborate if the US would close its embassy if Turkish troops do not stay to secure the airport. The US is looking to leave a few hundred troops in Afghanistan to protect its diplomatic mission, but if the airport isn’t secure, and Kabul falls to the Taliban the US personnel would have no way out.

Besides hoping to keep a diplomatic presence, the US also wants to maintain the ability to bomb Afghanistan, what the Pentagon is calling “over the horizon capability.” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the US has already begun launching surveillance and combat flights inside Afghanistan from outside the country. The US is doing this from airbases and aircraft carriers in the Gulf region but hopes to work out a deal with one of Afghanistan’s neighbors to keep assets closer.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.