Turkey still keen to run Kabul airport despite Taliban advance – officials

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Turkey is for now still intent on running and guarding Kabul airport after other foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan, but is monitoring the situation after rapid advances by Taliban insurgents, two Turkish officials said.

Taliban fighters took control of another city in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the eighth provincial capital to fall to them in six days, as US-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal.

Turkey has offered to deploy troops at Kabul airport after NATO withdraws and has held talks with the United States for weeks. In exchange, President Tayyip Erdogan has asked for financial, logistical and diplomatic conditions to be met.

“For now nothing has changed regarding the TAF (Turkish Armed Forces) taking control of Kabul Airport. The talks and the process are continuing,” a senior 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.”

In a televised interview with broadcaster CNN Turk on Wednesday, Erdogan said he could meet with the Taliban as part of efforts to end the fighting in Afghanistan.

“Our related institutions are making efforts that could extend as far as some meetings with the Taliban… I could even meet the one that will be in the position of their leader,” Erdogan said.

The Taliban have warned Turkey against keeping troops in Afghanistan to guard the airport.

In comments to foreign media in Islamabad on Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said after talks with Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar that efforts would be made to facilitate talks between the Taliban and Ankara.

“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,” Khan said.

“And so we will be talking to the Taliban, to use our influence on them, to have a face-to-face talk with Turkey.”

A Turkish security official said Turkey was continuing to assess developments in Afghanistan.



“There is no change in view concerning the taking control of Kabul Airport. But the situation in Afghanistan is changing from day to day,” he said.