U.S. awaiting Turkey’s decision on protection for Kabul airport

The United States is waiting Turkey’s decision on protecting Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, after the upcoming NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We have ongoing discussions with Turkish leaders about Turkey’s plans to secure the Kabul airport. Frankly, this is a decision that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has to make, and we will respect his decision,” Pentagon’s press secretary John Kirby said, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

NATO forces will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan in early September and the security of Hamid Karzai International Airport, follows uncertainty, as there are concerns over the Afghan government’s ability to take responsibility for international air travel.

According to the National news website, Turkey has agreed to take control of the airport in a $130 million deal with NATO, although dates and details have yet to be finalised.

On Monday, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey will only retain its troop presence in Afghanistan if it receives financial, logistical, and political support from its allies.

“If these are provided, we can stay. We are waiting for NATO’s reply regarding our terms,” he said.

In his response to a question on Akar’s remarks in his daily press briefing on Wednesday, Kirby said that he was not aware of those remarks, but they have ongoing talks with Turkey over the issue.

“In whatever form, the security of the airport will be essential to the continued diplomatic presence of not only the United States but also other nations in the Kabul," Kirby said.

U.S. President Joe Biden plans to withdraw every U.S. troop from Afghanistan by next Sept. 11. 

According to Hürriyet newspaper, there are 500 Turkish troops in Afghanistan participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission. Ankara has had troops deployed in Afghanistan since 2003. However, they do not participate in combat operations.