Turkey, which previously undertook the mission of taking over control of Kabul airport in Afghanistan, has reportedly dropped this plan after the rapid victory of the Taliban. It has expressed its willingness to provide support to the Taliban, if requested, reported Reuters on 16 August, based on information provided by two Turkish sources.
Turkey, with 600 troops in Afghanistan, had offered to keep them in Kabul to guard and operate the airport after other NATO members pulled out, and it had been discussing these details with Washington and the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
These plans have reportedly been thrown into disarray over the past two days after Ghani fled the country on Sunday as the Taliban swept into Kabul.
“At the point that has been reached, there is total chaos at Kabul airport. Order has been completely disrupted. At this stage, the process of Turkish soldiers taking over control of the airport has automatically been dropped,” said one of the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity. “However, in the event that the Taliban asks for technical support, Turkey can provide security and technical support at the airport,” the source added.
This was followed by statements from Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, at a press conference on 17 August that they were in dialogue with the Taliban. “We are in dialogue with all parties, including the Taliban,” he said and he went on to confirm that they have undertaken the mission of guarding Kabul airport.
“We feel positive about the messages that have been delivered by the Taliban to this point: their messages concerning both the foreigners and foreign diplomatic missions and also their people,” he added.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already stated last week that he could meet with the Taliban leadership, as part of efforts to end the fighting in Afghanistan. Erdoğan had also indicated that Turkey did not have any conflict with the Taliban regarding religious faith.
After these statements were made, a Taliban spokesperson had responded on 11 August by stating that the group wished to maintain ‘good relations’ with Turkey.
“We want good relations with Turkey. Turkey is our brother. We have many points in common, based on faith. We want Turkey to leave the past and return to the present and the future. After that, we can ask for dialogue,” Zabihullah Mujahid told the Arabic broadcasting service of Turkey’s public broadcaster, TRT.
The signals from Turkey for closer relations with the Taliban have been accompanied by articles in the government media, hinting at a rather ‘liberal’ Taliban profile with one of the recent headlines indicating that the Taliban leadership called upon Afghan women to ‘participate’ in the administration of the country.
Meanwhile, an iconic figure for the supporters of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, Mehmet Boynukalın, tweeted saying, “The majority of the Afghan people believe that the Taliban is a national liberation movement resisting occupation.”
Boynukalın, the former chief cleric of Hagia Sophia (a 1500-year-old Eastern Roman church, converted into a mosque last year), added: “They have taken over almost the whole country without fighting. So, we are obliged to stand with the Afghan people.”