Turkey preparing mandate to extend presence in Kabul
Turkey is prepared to draw up a mandate if its soldiers are required to extend their stay in Kabul, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said, speaking at the International Defence Industry Fair in Istanbul on Friday.
Akar told Turkish news outlet Daily Sabah that Turkish soldiers were stationed at the airport in the Afghan capital and that they were safe.
He added that "if necessary, parliament can be called for an extraordinary meeting" to discuss the situation, and that the relevant ministries and institutions were already preparing a mandate for the Turkish solider to stay, should it be needed.
Akar explained that Turkish forces had been working to prepare runways for flights and that "currently, they [the Afghan people] do not want to leave the airport, they see the airport as a safe place, a shelter and are waiting."
He added that all precautions had been taken to ensure all military personnel are evacuated when it becomes necessary, and that Turkish nationals were currently being evacuated from the country.
The minister said that Turkish forces would only remain in Kabul for as long as they are needed, and that Ankara has no hidden agenda.
Turkey offered to protect and run the airport in the Afghan capital following the US and NATO withdrawal, but it is not clear how security can be ensured along major transport routes, which are crucial for the evacuation of diplomatic staff from Western missions.
For the past 20 years, Turkey has had a noncombatant role in Afghanistan, limiting its efforts to reconstruction and maintenance.
"What is important are our Afghan brothers, the rights and interests of our people and country and our moral values. Within this scope, Turkey is talking with the relevant institutions," Akar said.
"We are receiving positive signals; however, if something goes wrong and we see a problem, we will leave the country in 24 hours," he continued.
"We spoke with the German and British defense ministers, NATO and the US, they said they are ready for cooperation and support Turkey's presence there."
Akar said that the airport is currently operating without problems, citing the 146 flights that have taken off over the past four days.
Regarding the sound of gunfire that was heard at the airport, Akar said that shots were fired to disperse crowds but that the individuals who were killed, died as a result of stampedes.
The Taliban swept across Afghanistan in recent week, taking control of the country. Thousands of Afghan civilians have fled to the airport in the hopes of securing a place on a flight out of the country.