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Afghanistan: Turkey begins evacuating troops from Kabul airport

Ankara withdraws following Taliban rejection of Turkish troop presence in Kabul
A400 M type transport aircraft of the Turkish Air Forces
This handout photo taken on 18 August 2021 shows an A400 M-type transport aircraft of the Turkish Air Forces during the evacuation of Turkish citizens from Kabul airport (AFP)

The Turkish military began evacuating its personnel from Kabul International Airport on Wednesday, according to a Turkish Defence Ministry statement.

The move came after Turkish plans to station soldiers at the airport were rejected by the Taliban, who, in a press briefing on Tuesday, said Afghanistan did not need the presence of Turkish troops.

According to two sources, Turkey will only leave special forces at the airport after transporting other military and civilian personnel to Islamabad from Thursday morning.

The special forces are understood to be dismantling Turkish military equipment based at the airport ahead of the 31 August deadline for the removal of foreign troops.

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Ankara is not evacuating the bulk of its embassy staff and the special forces are expected also to protect the remaining diplomatic personnel in Kabul.

For the past few years, Turkey has been guarding the airport's military section against external attacks. Earlier this summer, Ankara was close to striking a deal with the US to continue the mission - but a sweeping Taliban takeover of the country has dramatically changed the circumstances.

Two Turkish officials told Reuters on Wednesday that the Taliban had asked Turkey for technical help to run Kabul airport after the departure of foreign forces, including Turkish troops.

However, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid denied the Taliban made such a request. "It isn't correct," he said in a written statement to MEE.

The Turkish military said it had evacuated 1,129 of its citizens from Afghanistan aboard Turkish military planes.

In a separate statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would be in talks with all parties to help Afghanistan to reach stability.