Turkey’s defense minister said Wednesday that Ankara would not send additional troops to Afghanistan as part of a plan to secure the Kabul airport after the US and other foreign forces leave the country. According to Reuters, there are currently about 500 Turkish troops in Afghanistan.
“At the moment, we already have a presence there and it is out of the question for us to send any soldiers there in any way now,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters. ” He said talks are still underway regarding the plan to secure the airport. “When these efforts are concluded in the coming period, the necessary measures will be taken and it will become a plan,” Akar said.
Akar said the plan would be discussed with a US delegation in Ankara on Thursday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has floated the idea that Hungary might join Turkey in the effort, and a report from Middle East Eye said Hungary has expressed a willingness to be involved, although nothing is confirmed.
The Biden administration is pushing Turkey to stay and secure the airport so the US can keep its embassy open in Kabul. But the Taliban has strongly rejected a continued Turkish presence. A Taliban spokesman said the plan is “unacceptable” and warned if Turkish troops stay, the Taliban would “view them as invaders.” Since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed in February 2020, the Taliban has refrained from attacking foreign troops, but that could change if some stay after the bulk of US and NATO forces leave.
The US will also try to leave troops to guard its embassy, but the details of what the US footprint will look like after the pullout are not clear. Initially, the US withdrawal appeared to be moving along. But the Pentagon suggested this week that it could slow the “pace” of the withdrawal over Taliban gains.