Turkey Wants Financial, Military Support to Secure Kabul Airport

Turkey wants NATO allies to share the financial and security burden of having its troops safeguard the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, a critical issue for the U.S. as it seeks to maintain a diplomatic presence in the city.

“Staying in Afghanistan is not a responsibility that a single country can take without support,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT television late Wednesday. “There is a security risk, but also a serious financial cost. It needs to be shared.”

The U.S. and NATO have already started withdrawing their remaining troops from Afghanistan, with a deadline of Sept. 11, despite concerns over the stability of the Afghan government and the resurgence of the Taliban, which now controls or contests 50% to 70% of the country.

Securing the Kabul airport is expected to be a top agenda item during a meeting between presidents Joe Biden and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels next Monday on the sidelines of the NATO summit. Turkey is the largest Muslim voice in NATO and has troops in Afghanistan in a non-combat role as part of the coalition supporting Afghan security forces.

“There are ongoing discussions” on who will be responsible for the security of the airport and what the scope and scale of it is going to be, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday.

The Pentagon is weighing the possibility of using warplanes or drones to support Afghan troops if Kabul or another major city is in danger of falling to the Taliban, the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing unidentified officials.

Turkey has a long history in Afghanistan. The country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, offered troops to Afghanistan’s King Amanullah in 1928 to put down an uprising by radical Islamists over the monarch’s decision to send Afghan girls to secular Turkey for schooling.

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