Taliban opposed to Turkish initiative to guard Kabul airport
The Taliban are reportedly opposed to a Turkish initiative for a contingent of Ankara's troops to remain in the country to guard Kabul airport after US and international forces complete their withdrawal from the country in September.
Contacted by Reuters via text, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen bundled Muslim-majority Turkey together with other NATO members, affirming the groups's stance that it was imperative all foreign troops leave according to a deal the insurgents struck with the Trump administration last year.
While Turkish forces joined ISAF in 2001, the NATO mission formed in the aftermath of the Taliban's ouster, they have not played any major role in combat.
"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 the US on 29th Feb 2020," Shaheen said.
But he praised Turkey for being a "great Islamic country" and said that Kabul and Ankara were bound by "historical" ties.
At the same time, he offered chilling sign of the Taliban’s confidence that it will emerge the victor should fears materialise that Afghanistan will erupt into a civil war after foreign forces depart.
"We hope to have close and good relations with them as a new Islamic government is established in the country," he said.
With 500 of its forces still in the country to train Afghan government forces, Turkish officials made the proposal to guard the airport, which serves as Afghanistan's only exit point for diplomatic staff and humanitarian workers, in a NATO meeting in May.
Government forces continue to battle the Taliban who control large parts of the Afghan countryside and even some areas around the capital. The so-called "Afghan peace process", bringing together negotiators from both sides, has stalled since September.
Amid fears the Kabul administration will not survive without international support, officials quoted in a piece published by The New York Times on Thursday said that the Pentagon was considering the use of warplanes and armed drones in exceptional circumstances after withdrawing, such as the fall of the capital.