ISTANBUL – Turkey seeks to play a vital role in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US forces by offering to provide security at Kabul International Airport. But Ankara faces formidable obstacles.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the operation and security of the Afghan airport in Kabul is essential not only for the country, but also for the survival of all diplomatic missions, including Turkey.
Cavusoglu made the comments on Sunday at an international meeting in the Turkish resort town of Antalya.
At the Antalya meeting, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said he supported Turkey’s offer to provide security at Kabul airport.
We welcome it and we will support it. We believe this will be essential for Turkey’s and NATO’s pursuit, as well as for the international community’s support for Afghanistan, he said.
But Atmar downplayed any Pakistan military role in the Turkish mission.
Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking at the NATO summit said Hungarian and Pakistani forces would help Turkey keep Kabul airport safe.
The Taliban have said they oppose any foreign forces remaining in Afghanistan, but Ankara believes they can overcome such opposition.
While the Turkish military is part of US-led NATO operations in Afghanistan, it has avoided armed confrontation.
Hikmet Cetin, who served as NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, said Turkey has managed to maintain good relations with all parties to the conflict.
When I was there of course I [talked]sometimes with the younger generation of the Taliban. They respect Turkey very much because the relationship between Turkey and Afghanistan began in the 1920s. But [the]The Taliban, they disagreed with Turkey being part of the foreign military forces, part of NATO, he said.
Turkey expects its close allies, Pakistan and Qatar, to use their influence over the Taliban to soften their opposition to the proposed Turkish role.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi said on Monday that Erdogan had invited Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for talks on Afghanistan. Qureshi warned that the Afghan peace process was at a critical stage. The Taliban are stepping up military operations across the country as US forces withdraw, a process expected to be completed by September 11.
Turkish officials are in talks with Washington for financial and logistical support. As Turkey’s relations with its many Western allies are strained and in need of repair, the country’s airport initiative could provide crucial common ground, said Huseyin Bagci, head of the Institute for Foreign Policy. in Ankara.
It’s very risky, but nothing can be better for US-Turkish relations to put Turkish troops at Kabul airport. The key issue is [the]The Taliban, but they can make a deal, he said.
Analysts warn that with formidable obstacles still in the way of Turkey’s plans for the Kabul airport mission, time is running out before the 9/11 deadline for the US withdrawal.
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