On Saturday, Middle East Eye (MEE) reported that Turkey and Qatar will jointly operate the Kabul international airport after the US withdraws on August 31. Turkey withdrew its troops from the airport earlier this week after talks with Taliban leadership fell through.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to consult NATO allies, chiefly the United States, about the contents of the deal. The deal includes recognizing the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government and providing special forces to protect Turkish citizens working at the airport.
Turkey was close to striking a deal with the US to continue the Afghanistan mission, but that also fell through following the Taliban takeover of the country.
On Friday, Erdogan said that the Taliban had offered Turkey the opportunity to run the airport, but continued to insist on providing security with its own fighters. However, both sides have now cut a draft deal that could resolve the issue.
The main points of the draft deal include:
- Turkey recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan
- Turkey and Qatar operating the airport in a consortium
- Ankara providing security through a private firm, whose staff will consist of former Turkish soldiers and police
- That additional members of the Turkish special forces, operating in plainclothes to secure Turkish technical staff, do not leave the airport perimeter.
Turkey is also asking the Taliban to cut the deal between the former Afghan government and a United Arab Emirates-based consortium on providing airport security. For the past several years, Turkey guarded Kabul airport's military section against external attacks.
Taliban spokespeople refused to comment as they weren’t authorized to discuss the topic with the media.
Erdogan has kept Kabul’s Turkish embassy open while a deal is hashed out. Diplomatic staff and its ambassador remain in the nation’s capital, alongside several Turkish special forces to protect the embassy.
Turkish officials said maintaining a presence in Afghanistan protects Turkish commercial and political interests in the country, including preventing a wave of refugees from entering Turkey seeking asylum in Europe.
The officials added that the presence of Turkish security forces at Kabul airport could ensure relative stability in the capital, and facilitate foreign aid and investment into the country during the transition period.