Turkey’s Akar: We are working to keep Kabul airport open and secure

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Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said Turkey is working to keep Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport open and secure in the chaos that followed the Taliban’s takeover of the Afghan capital, Turkish media reported on Thursday.

There has been no attack against or intervention in the airport, Akar told reporters.

The rapid progress of the Taliban, culminating in the takeover of the capital, defying the US expectations, has led to chaos in Kabul as thousands of people, Afghans and other nationals, have flocked to the airport as the only route out of the country.

“The planes have started to take off and land safely thanks to the measures taken by Turkish troops in cooperation with troops from other countries. There have been 64 flights during the last two days,” Turkey’s defense minister said.

Akar noted that more than 200 Turkish citizens were evacuated on Wednesday in a Turkish Air Forces plane, adding that “various countries are working to evacuate their citizens from Afghanistan as well.”

Regarding Turkey’s offer to protect Kabul’s strategic airport before the Taliban takeover, Akar said the issue would be clarified and a final decision made based on future talks.

In July Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had offered to secure the Kabul airport under the control of Turkish forces after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in a high-risk bid to improve Ankara’s strained ties with Washington.

Ankara’s surprise proposal gave Erdoğan a chance to build a rapport with US President Joe Biden during their first meeting at a NATO summit in June while averting an influx of refugees by keeping aid routes open.

But the swift Taliban takeover has left the Turkish plan in limbo.

Akar said the world knows Turkey’s position on aiding the Afghan people.

“We have been standing by our Afghan brothers and sisters since 2002. At that time, NATO was discussing the matter. ‘When will you leave?’ they were asking. We have at every opportunity stressed that ‘we will continue to stay here as long as our Afghan brothers and sisters want us to.’ We still have the same position. We have common cultural and historical values with our Afghan brothers and sisters,” he said.

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