Turkey-U.S Kabul Airport deal to determine fate of Afghanistan - NY Times

A great deal is resting on a brewing deal between Turkey and the United States over the security of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai International Airport ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from the country later this year, the New York Times said on Tuesday.

Negotiations underway with Ankara to secure the civilian airport that has served a main gateway to Afghanistan are happening as the Taliban advance across the country, the NY Times said, and failure to secure the deal could have dire consequences, including lack of access to the country by aid groups and U.S. diplomatic presences.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed Ankara’s plans for the airport 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, questions remain over the viability of the Turkish deployment without continued U.S. air support, among other concerns.

Without a secure airport, the ability to conduct day-to-day embassy operations in a large country like Afghanistan, which is the size of Texas, is significantly diminished,” James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral who served as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s supreme allied commander for Europe, told the NY times.

“In addition to personal safety and ability to evacuate in emergencies, helos and planes are needed to move U.S. diplomats, aid workers, intelligence officers and support personnel around the country,” he added. “Without that fundamental capability, the mission of the embassy is a failure.”

Talks on completing an agreement with Ankara have yet to resolve details of how the operation would work, the NY Times said, noting that the discussions were taking place amid high-level strains between Turkey and the United States over issues like Ankara’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile systems.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s proposal to keep troops in Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO forces leave by Sept. 11 deadline has been rejected by the Taliban, which controls swathes of land across the country.

“After two decades of war, failed military strategies and set-piece battles that seem to have fallen out of remembered time, the fate of the airport is shaping up as a potential epitaph to America’s presence in Afghanistan,’’ the NY Times said.

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