On Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan demanded that the US meet “conditions” such as financial, logistical, and political assistance so that Turkey can administer and secure Kabul airport when other foreign forces leave Afghanistan.
Turkey has volunteered to send troops to the airport after NATO withdraws completely, and the two countries have been in talks for several weeks.
Turkey has been threatened by the Taliban, who have gained ground as US-led foreign forces withdraw.
Erdogan, speaking in northern Cyprus, acknowledged that the Taliban had reservations but said Turkey would nonetheless carry out the mission as long as the United States, a NATO partner, meets three specific Turkish requirements.
“If these conditions could be met, we are thinking of taking over the management of Kabul airport,” he said, listing diplomatic backing for Turkey as well as the U.S. handover of facilities and logistics in Afghanistan.
“There will be serious financial and administrative difficulties … (the United States) will give the necessary support to Turkey in this respect as well,” Erdogan added, after attending morning prayers during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.
Turkey hopes the airport mission will help soothe U.S. ties that are strained on several fronts including its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defenses.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001 and have fought for 20 years to expel foreign forces, topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and re-impose Islamic rule.
The Taliban, emboldened by the departure of foreign forces by a September target, have called Turkey’s plan reprehensible. Ankara and others have said the airport must stay open to preserve diplomatic missions there.
Erdogan said the Taliban should “stop the occupation” before heading for Cyprus on Monday. He claimed on Tuesday that negotiations between Turkey and the Taliban will overcome any obstacles and would be more comfortable than previous US-Taliban talks.
Erdogan announced plans to build a new government facility for Turkish Cypriots during his visit, as part of a two-state solution opposed by the European Union, Greece, and the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government.