The United States is working together with Turkey and Qatar on Afghanistan’s Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Saying that opening the airport and regional airports is important, Psaki in a press briefing said, “On the airport front, the more specific piece we’re working on with the Qataris and the Turks, who are important partners here, is getting the civilian side of the airport up and operational again so that we can use that not just for flights for people to depart, but also for humanitarian assistance.”
With the Taliban in possession of Kabul's airport after the U.S. completed its withdrawal on Aug. 31, the focus will now shift from the mammoth Western evacuation operation seen in the past two weeks to the group's future plans for the transport hub.
Turkey had offered to run security following the withdrawal of foreign troops, but the Taliban repeatedly said it would not accept any foreign military presence in Afghanistan after Aug. 31.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey was still assessing the group's offer, but the Taliban still insisted on controlling security.
“How can we give security to you (the Taliban)? How can we explain to the world if blood is shed again when you take over security?" Erdoğan said to journalists on return from his Balkans tour.
Thousands of skilled workers are believed to have fled the country, despite Taliban pleas for them to stay, and questions remain over whether enough trained workers will be left in the Afghan capital.
The Taliban have insisted they want to keep the civilian airport open, but without guarantees over security, commercial airlines simply would not operate out of Kabul.
Since 2002, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have operated in Afghanistan under the United Nations, 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 role for two decades and has been involved in consultancy efforts, reconstruction and maintenance. It has been operating the airport for six years.
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.
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