Mission impossible: Turkey announces that Armed Forces will not have a combat mission in Afghanistan

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Translated by Leo Kendrick

The government wants to run Afghanistan’s Kabul airport once NATO and US soldiers leave the country. This issue continues to raise eyebrows in Turkey with many questioning President Erdoğan’s intent. Details regarding this planned mission remain unclear. Turkey’s Defence Ministry (MSB) now announced that Turkish troops will not have a combat mission.

In a statement made on the MSB website yesterday (30 July), it was stated that Turkey will keep troops in Afghanistan “as long as the Afghan people want,” but will not take up combat duties:

“Following the decision of other NATO member states to withdraw their armed forces from Afghanistan, the Turkish Armed Forces are continuing to safely operate the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, which has been extremely critical for Afghanistan over the past six years.

While the consultancy and training activities carried out for the past 20 years within the scope of NATO mission and bilateral agreements have been terminated, negotiations with the authorities of other countries and Afghanistan continue regarding Turkey’s continued operation of the airport. Assuming that the necessary conditions are met, we will continue to fulfill this duty that we are currently performing, which has made a great contribution to the relations of the Afghan people and Afghanistan. If our duty continues the Turkish Armed Forces will have no combat mission in Afghanistan, as has been the case from the very beginning, and no operations will be carried out other than those of self-defense.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a gradual withdrawal of NATO powers from Afghanistan, whose mission officially ended on 16 July after nearly 20 years. With the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country, the Taliban’s power has increased in recent weeks, and they have demanded the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces. The security and continued operation of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport is considered vital in maintaining Afghanistan’s connection to the outer world. Although the MSB announcement states that Turkey’s presence in Kabul is non-combative in nature, the Taliban has made clear that the maintenance of any foreign troop presence in the country will be viewed as an occupation, a position which would preclude Turkey’s planned operation of the airport.

Various spokespersons for the Taliban have also threatened Turkey.

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