The details of a deal for Turkey to assume security at Kabul’s international airport have yet to be finalised, putting the proposal in doubt ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Bloomberg reported on Friday.
Securing the future of Hamid Karzai International airport, a crucial access point for foreign diplomats and organisations, is seen as a key priority as U.S. troops prepare to leave Afghanistan by September.
Turkish forces are currently responsible for the airport under the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, and Ankara has indicated it would be willing to maintain this presence if given international support.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed the issue with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden at the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels earlier this month, after which U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said an agreement had been reached without providing further details.
However, Bloomberg said questions remained over the viability of the Turkish deployment without continued U.S. air support.
“Unless there is an agreement between the Taliban and Turkey to temporarily operate the Kabul airport, it is mission impossible due to colossal security risks,” Nihat Ali Özcan, a strategist at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara, told the news outlet.
“The question is who will prevent the Taliban from firing mortar rounds or rockets at the runway from afar?” he said.
The Taliban, the armed movement which controlled Afghanistan prior to the 2001 U.S. invasion, has called on Turkish troops to follow NATO in withdrawing from the country.
Turkish officials privately acknowledge the security concerns and will meet U.S. military figures this week to push for concrete guarantees of support, Bloomberg said.
Turkey’s offer to remain in Afghanistan comes as it seeks to restructure its relations with the United States under Biden.
The two NATO allies remain at loggerheads over a range of issues, including Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian-made S-400 missiles, resulting in U.S. sanctions.
“Safeguarding the airport is a way of making nice without giving too much up,” Jenny White, professor at Stockholm University’s Institute for Turkish Studies, told Bloomberg.