Taliban rejects Turkish military presence in Afghanistan

The Taliban rejects Turkey’s proposal to keep troops in Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO forces leave the war-torn country by a Sept. 11 deadline, Voice of America (VOA) reported on Friday.

In his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested that Turkey could retain its troop presence in Afghanistan by talking to the Taliban.

The Taliban’s statement came a day after U.S. officials said President Joe Biden and Turkish President Erdoğan agreed in their meeting Monday that Turkey would continue providing security at the international airport in Afghanistan following the troop pullout.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA that guarding the airports and other locations in the country is the responsibility of Afghans.

“If foreign forces want to retain a military presence here in the name of airport security, Afghans will not allow it and will view them as invaders, be it Turkey or any other country,” Mujahid told VOA.

“In recent meetings and discussions with Turkish diplomats, they had shared with us [Turkey’s] proposed continued military presence here, but we told them it was unacceptable for us. And they assured us that our stance will be conveyed to their leadership,” Mujahid said.

Turkey and America can discuss their bilateral issues, but it is for Afghans alone to decide how to conduct their “internal affairs and expect others to respect it,” he added.

Turkey presently has 500 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, the largest remaining foreign military contingent, and has played a key non-combat role in NATO missions in the country since 2003.

The U.S.-led military withdrawal, which formally began on May 1, stems from an agreement Washington negotiated with the Taliban in February  2020 aimed at ending nearly 20 years of American involvement in the Afghan war, VOA said.

The Taliban warned that Turkey’s plans to guard and run the Kabul airport would violate the U.S.-Taliban deal, it added.