Turkey should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan under the 2020 deal for the pullout of U.S. forces, a Taliban spokesman said on Thursday, effectively rejecting Ankara's proposal to guard and run Kabul's airport after U.S.-led NATO forces depart.
The development raises serious questions for countries and international organizations with missions in Kabul about how to securely evacuate their personnel from the landlocked country should an all-out civil war threaten the Afghan capital. Asked in a text message whether the Taliban rejected Turkey's proposal to keep forces in Kabul to run the international airport, the Taliban spokesman in Doha responded that they should be pulled out.
"Turkey was part of NATO forces in the past 20 years, so as such, they should withdraw from Afghanistan on the basis of the Agreement we signed with US on 29th Feb 2020," Suhail Shaheen told Reuters. "Otherwise, Turkey is a great Islamic country. Afghanistan has had historical relations with it. We hope to have close and good relations with them as a new Islamic government is established in the country in future," he added.
Turkish officials say they made the Kabul airport proposal at a NATO meeting in May when the United States and its partners agreed to a plan to withdraw their forces by Sept. 11 after 20 years of backing the Afghan government in a war against Taliban insurgents. Many U.S. lawmakers and current and former officials fear the departure of the foreign forces and stalled peace talks are pushing Afghanistan down a road to civil war that could return the Taliban to power.
U.S.-led forces ousted the Islamist Taliban government in late 2001 for sheltering al Qaeda militants involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.