Stoltenberg: NATO planning how to maintain international airport in Kabul

NATO member states are planning and also some holding direct talks, including the United States and Turkey, on how to maintain an international airport in Kabul, said NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement ahead of NATO Summit 2021 in Brussels.

“We are also now working on how we can maintain support critical infrastructure, including the airport,” he stated about ongoing talks among the NATO member states on how to guard Kabul international airport after the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

This comes as the Taliban have strongly reacted against a report issued recently indicating Turkey’s willingness to provide the guarding service for the airport beyond the withdrawal deadline, September 11, 2021, set by the US President Joe Biden. On Saturday, the Taliban warned that it would be “unacceptable” to the group and a “mistake” by any nation to retain military presence in Afghanistan for guarding airports or other installations after the foreign troops’ withdrawal.

Turkey, with about 500 soldiers still in Afghanistan, has offered its services to guard and run Kabul’s international airport beyond the withdrawal deadline, the Voice of America reported last Saturday. Ankara reportedly floated the proposal at a NATO meeting last month.

Moreover, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey President, said on Sunday, June 13, that Turkey will be the “only reliable” country to manage the current situation in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal from the country, the Turkish Anatoly News Agency reported.

He made the remarks before leaving Istanbul for Brussels to attend the NATO summit.

“This is of course important for NATO allies but it is also important for the whole international community, for diplomatic presence, and also for continued development aid,” Stoltenberg said about importance of maintaining and guarding the airport in Kabul.

Touching on NATO’s support for the Afghan defense and security forces, Stoltenberg asserted that the organization will continue to provided support and advice for the Afghan security institutions through civilian presence in the country.

“We are also now working on how we can provide out-of-country training for Afghan security forces,” he said, assuring that all NATO allies have made the commitment to continue supporting Afghan forces after the withdrawal.