Turkish personnel and all Turkish citizens who wish to leave Afghanistan have been evacuated from the country's capital Kabul in less than 48 hours, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Saturday.
At a welcoming ceremony in the capital Ankara for troops arriving from Afghanistan, Akar said the evacuation was carried out via an air bridge between Kabul and Pakistan's capital Islamabad with eight airplanes and two helicopters.
The evacuation was completed days before the Taliban's Aug. 31 deadline for foreign forces to leave the country.
Akar added that all risks, threats and developments in the war-torn country are being closely monitored and that Turkey has prepared for all scenarios.
"Our armed forces have been carrying out their mission with extraordinary efforts to contribute to world peace in several regions, from Libya to Kosovo, from Afghanistan to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and from Qatar to Somalia under the United Nations, NATO, OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and bilateral agreements," Akar said.
He added that Turkey is expanding the scope of its influence and interests on a daily basis and that it is a leader in international relations.
The ministry had announced the decision to withdraw its armed forces from Afghanistan on Wednesday after evaluating the current situation and conditions.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan in a phone call on Saturday.
“Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and I spoke again today about our continuing joint efforts to ensure a safe and orderly evacuation from Afghanistan,” Blinken said.
“Turkey is an important NATO Ally and we're grateful for its partnership,” he added.
A day earlier, Akar held a phone call with his U.S. counterpart Lloyd James Austin.
Both ministers expressed that they were pleased by their cooperation while evacuating Afghanistan. Akar also expressed his condolences for the U.S. soldiers that lost their lives in the recent terrorist attack at Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, carried out by a regional Daesh chapter.
Since 2002, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have operated in Afghanistan under the U.N., NATO and bilateral agreements to contribute to the peace, welfare and stability of the Afghan people.
Turkey had more than 500 noncombatant troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of NATO's now-abandoned mission in the war-torn country.
Turkey has been in Afghanistan in a noncombatant capacity for 20 years and has been involved in consultancy efforts, reconstruction and maintenance. It had been operating the airport for six years.
Ankara had been negotiating with both the Taliban and Washington about playing a role in protecting the Kabul airport after the U.S. troop withdrawal, which is scheduled to be completed soon.
After the Taliban seized control of the country Turkey offered technical and security assistance at the airport.
Keeping the airport open after foreign forces hand over control is vital not just for Afghanistan to stay connected to the world but to maintain aid supplies and operations.
Turkish officials said that the Taliban have asked Turkey for technical help to run the Kabul airport after the departure of foreign forces but insist that Ankara's military also withdraw fully by the end of August deadline.
The Taliban have said that the group would secure the airport itself.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said on Tuesday the group sought good ties with Ankara.
"We want good relations with Turkey, the Turkish government and the Muslim people of the Turkish nation. As for Turkish forces stationed in Afghanistan, we are not in need of them in our country and once the evacuation is completed we will secure the airport by ourselves," Mujahid said.
The Taliban recently declared the war in Afghanistan over after taking control of the presidential palace in Kabul, while Western nations scrambled to evacuate their citizens amid chaos at Kabul airport as frantic Afghans searched for a way out.
It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as Afghan government forces, trained for two decades and equipped by the U.S. and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.
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