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Turkey, Taliban in airport 'technical support' talks: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows an overview of the Kabul International Airport.

The Taliban militant group has reportedly initiated talks with Turkey to see whether the country would give the group "technical assistance" at the Kabul International Airport once all foreign forces leave Afghanistan by the end of August.

“The Taliban have made a request for technical support in running Kabul airport,” a senior Turkish official was cited by Reuters as saying on Wednesday.

The Taliban renewed their rule over Afghanistan after taking the capital Kabul more than a week ago. 

The development came after a months-long offensive by the militants that was helped by a decision announced by the United States in April to take all of its military forces out of Afghanistan.

Turkey used to be tasked with minding the terminal by the Western military alliance of NATO, of which it is a member. Now, the US is keeping a tight grip over the facility, but the Taliban have made it clear that all foreign forces have to depart by August 31.

The Turkish official said it was not clear whether Ankara could be involved in providing the requested assistance at the facility if all of the Turkish forces were to leave. “Ensuring the safety of workers without the Turkish Armed Forces is a risky job,” he said.

Speaking on Tuesday, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said although the group sought “good relations” with Turkey, “as for Turkish forces stationed in Afghanistan, we are not in need of them in our country and once the evacuation is completed.”

The US has, meanwhile, hinted at not being prepared to hand over the airport so easily.

“A functioning state, a functioning economy, a government that has some semblance of a relationship with the rest of the world, needs a functioning commercial airport,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.

“We are in discussions with the Taliban on this very front. They have indicated to us in no uncertain terms that they seek to have a functioning commercial airport,” he added.


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