Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would discuss stabilising Afghanistan in his meeting with Joe Biden on the margins of the NATO summit in Brussels on Monday Before leaving for Brussels on Sunday, Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul airport “America is preparing to leave Afghanistan soon and from the moment they leave, the only reliable country to maintain the process over there is Turkey.”
Kabul airport, which is the main exit route for western diplomats and humanitarian workers, has been under threat for a long time. Reports say that Turkey is prepared to keep troops in Afghanistan to protect it. This statement came as the US was in the final stages of completing a military drawdown, alongside NATO forces, by September 11, 20 years after its Afghanistan invasion.
Erdogan states that after the US troop pullout Turkish officials had informed their American counterparts about Ankara’s plans in Afghanistan. “They are pleased. We will be able to discuss the Afghanistan process with them,” he said. Sources say that a Turkish official confirmed that Western powers were willing to let Turkey protect the Kabul airport. However, he added, “why should Turkey try hard if nobody is going to give support? These issues need to be clarified.”
The Taliban, on Saturday, said that foreign forces should hold “no hope” of keeping a military presence in Afghanistan. It warned that the security of embassies and airports would be the responsibility of Afghans.
The relations between the US and Turkey have been tense in recent years. However, Erdogan said he wanted to start a new chapter with the Biden administration. “There were rumours here and there. We need to leave them behind and discuss what we can do. We expect to see an approach from the US without ifs and buts,” the President said.
Moreover, the list of contentions between the two countries is long from US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria to Turkey’s purchase of a Russian weapons system. In April, Biden enraged Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era mass killing and deportations of Armenians was genocide. The former US presidents tried to avoid that term out of concern that it would complicate ties with Turkey, as the latter is proud of its Ottoman history and insists that those killed in the early 20th century were victims of civil war and unrest.
While talking about Biden’s use of the term genocide, Erdogan said: “This has seriously saddened us… Turkey is not an ordinary country. It’s an ally of America.”
Erdogan has been in power for over 18 years as Prime minister and then President. He had a couple of one-on-one meetings with officials across the globe like French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.