U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan has welcomed Turkey's “clear commitment” to take a lead role in securing Kabul's international airport after the planned U.S.-led withdrawal of allied troops from Afghanistan later this year.
Meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels earlier this week, U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a "detailed discussion" about the fate of the airport, Sullivan told reporters on June 17.
"The two of them tasked teams just to work out the final details. But the clear commitment from the leaders was established that Turkey would play a lead role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport," he told reporters in Washington.
Erdogan said Turkey needed "certain forms of support," to which Biden agreed, he said.
Biden has ordered the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States that prompted the U.S.-led invasion and ouster of the Taliban government that sheltered the terrorist network.
There have been concerns among U.S. officials and others that the Taliban could topple the Western-backed Afghan government in Kabul and the battered Afghan security forces once the last foreign troops leave.
At a U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on June 17, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley were asked whether they rated the likelihood of a regeneration of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State extremist group in Afghanistan as small, medium, or large.
“I would assess it as medium," Austin replied, adding that he thinks "it would take possibly two years for them to develop that capability."
Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he agreed.
The security of the airport is crucial for the operation of diplomatic missions out of Afghanistan as Western forces withdraw from the war-torn country.
At a summit in Brussels on June 14, Biden, Erdogan, and the other NATO leaders vowed to “provide transitional funding to ensure continued functioning” of Hamid Karzai International Airport after the pull out of allied troops, as well as “training and financial support” to the Afghan security forces.
Erdogan told a press conference that Turkey would need “diplomatic, logistic, and financial support” from the United States to protect Kabul's airport.
Turkey, a majority Muslim nation, currently has some 500 soldiers in the country.
Ankara and Washington have been at odds over a number of issues, including Ankara's purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.
Sullivan said Biden and Erdogan were not able to resolve the long-standing issue when they met in Brussels, adding that dialogue would continue.
The impasse over the S-400s prompted Washington to remove Ankara from the F-35 fighter jet program and impose sanctions.