The US military is sending a delegation to Turkey later this week to discuss plans to secure the Kabul airport after the US and other foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
A Turkish defense official cited by Middle East Eye said the US delegation will be in Ankara either on Wednesday or Thursday. The delegation will follow up on a discussion between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, who spoke by phone on Saturday.
The Pentagon said in a readout of the call that the two military leaders discussed “bilateral cooperation and maintaining continued diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.” The US wants Turkish troops to guard the airport so its embassy in Kabul can stay open.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed with President Biden that Ankara would take a “lead role” in securing the airport. It’s not clear what countries might join Turkey in its mission.
“It isn’t very clear who will join this mission. We have to wait and see to understand who is genuinely interested,” the Turkish defense official told Middle East Eye. “There are some who aren’t in Afghanistan that would like to take part, or there are others who are there but would like to stay after the withdrawal. We will have a better picture in four or five days.”
Last week, Erdogan floated the idea that Pakistan or Hungary might help. Two sources told Middle East Eye that Hungary has already expressed a willingness to be involved.
The Taliban has issued strong warnings against a continued Turkish presence in Afghanistan after other foreign forces leave. On Friday, a Taliban spokesman said the plan is “unacceptable” and warned if Turkish troops stay, the Taliban would “view them as invaders.”