Earlier this month, as the US began to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban took over the reigns of the government. Some 20 years after an US invasion, the militant group is once again back at the helm, creating an atmosphere of anxiety among residents and diplomats alike. With an August 31 deadline looming, thousands have converged at Kabul airport in a bid to leave the country. Since August 14, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed earlier today, more than 82,300 people have been safely flown out of Kabul.
Recent reports suggest that the Taliban have consolidated their control around Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. Till the end of this month however, the US remains responsible for managing the airport. More specifically, the US will be managing the airport until the withdrawal deadline provided by the Biden administration arrives. Now, even as the Taliban refuse to entertain the possibility of an extension, recent reports indicate that the militant group has a replacement in mind. Going by recent reports however, the militant group has an alternative in mind.
According to a Reuters report quoting two Turkish officials, the Taliban have asked Ankara to provide technical help in running Kabul airport after the departure of foreign forces. Reportedly, they have also insisted that Turkey's military withdraw fully by August 31.
It is not yet clear whether Turkey will accept the request. A NATO member, Turkey has long been an integral part of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Turkish troops continue to be present at Kabul airport, and on Wednesday the country’s defence ministry said it had now begun the withdrawal process.
Even after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had repeatedly reiterated his intention of keeping a 500-strong battalion at the airport. However, negotiations appear to have been futile as the Taliban continue to insist that Turkey must leave alongside other NATO troops.
This does not however mean that the offer of administering the airport has been turned down just yet. According to a Financial Times report quoting Erdogan’s senior adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish civilian experts may still provide technical support after the military had left. No official confirmation has come in thus far.
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