Turkey is still determined to occupy the Kabul airport despite the Taliban’s successful offensive in Afghanistan. The US and Turkey have been negotiating a deal that would keep Turkish troops at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, which Washington sees as vital to maintaining its embassy and a small troop presence in Kabul.
“For now nothing has changed regarding the TAF [Turkish Armed Forces] taking control of Kabul Airport. The talks and the process are continuing,” a Turkish official told Reuters. “Work is continuing on the basis that the transfer will happen, but of course the situation in Afghanistan is being followed closely.”
For weeks now, the US and Turkey have been engaged in talks over the security of the airport. Turkey wants the US and NATO to foot the bill for the mission and are seeking other guarantees. For their part, the Taliban has rejected the plan and warned they would view Turkey as a foreign occupier if Turkish troops stayed in Afghanistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan held talks with Turkey’s defense minister on Wednesday and said after the meeting that he will try to facilitate a dialogue between Turkey and the Taliban over the airport. “The best thing is for Turkey and the Taliban to have a face-to-face dialogue. So both can talk about the reasons why Kabul airport has to be secured,” he said.
The Taliban has been rolling through provincial capitals over the past week and is said to now control about 65 percent of Afghanistan. While Kabul hasn’t been attacked yet, US officials are now warning the capital city could fall to the Taliban within 90 days.
With the security situation deteriorating, the US is now considering evacuating its embassy in Kabul, according to a Politico report. If the US embassy is shuttered, there could no longer be a need for Turkey to guard the airport.