Russian envoy says U.S-Turkey deal to secure Kabul airport ignored Afghan government, Taliban concerns

Turkey's decision to maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan with support from the United States was made without consulting either the Afghan government or the Taliban, Zamir Kabulov, Russia's special envoy for Afghanistan, said on Wednesday. 

To maintain a Turkish military mission in Afghanistan after the U.S withdrawal in September directly contradicts the February 2020 agreement signed in Qatar between Washington and the Taliban, Kabulov told Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) in an interview. He added that the deal was seen as particularly negative by Taliban officials during a recent visit to Moscow where they held discussions with Russian diplomats. 

"Taliban were unequivocally negative about any foreign military presence after the end of the American military campaign in the IRA [Islamic Republic of Afghanistan]. During the recent consultations in Moscow [held on July 8], the Taliban envoys once again condemned Ankara's decision and called it a mistake," Kabulov said.

Since Turkey first announced its readiness to continue its pre-existing mission of securing Kabul International Airport the Taliban have been starkly opposed. In its most recent statement on Tuesday, a Taliban spokesperson warned that the militant organisation was ready to "take a stand" against Turkey if it refused to follow other international forces out of the country. 

Zabulov's claim that the U.S and Turkey's decision to continue the defence of Kabul's airport over the heads of the Afghan government is contradicted by positive statements from its officials about the mission. Afghanistan's foreign minister Haneef Atmar told pro-government Daily Sabah last month that Kabul in fact welcomed Turkey's "bold and very much commendable initiative" and insisted the central government was in favour of it. 

Russia, who fought its own failed war in Afghanistan during the 1980s, has been a vocal proponent of all international forces leaving Afghanistan per the Doha agreement with the Taliban. Kabulov, the Russian envoy, noted in his interview with AA that after two decades the U.S has failed to create stability in Afghanistan and that this a view shared by counterparts in the region.

In recent week, the Taliban have secure swaths of northern Afghanistan, prompting government soldiers to abandon their positions and flee across the border into neighbouring countries. For Moscow, it is important that a U.S withdrawal and a possible Taliban takeover of the country does not create instability in neighbouring states like Tajikistan or Uzbekistan.

"Russia will use all available opportunities to counter the ‘overflow’ of tensions from the northern regions of Afghanistan to the territories of its allies in Central Asia," Kabulov told AA.