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Afghanistan-Turkey: Taliban says willing to meet Erdogan 'under right circumstances'

All foreign forces, including Turkey, must leave the country, says Taliban spokesperson amid Ankara's efforts to retain forces in Kabul to protect the international airport
Taliban fighters take control of Ghazni city as they move closer to Kabul, 12 August 2021 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara and Levent Kemal

Taliban leaders are willing to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “under the right circumstances” to discuss the Afghanistan crisis, a spokesman for the group told Middle East Eye on Thursday.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that there was a possibility to receive the person who leads the Taliban, without naming him, to exchange views on the situation regarding Kabul international airport, which Ankara wants to continue to protect.

'There is communication between us and the Turkish embassy in Doha. And we like to have relations with all countries'

- Mohammad Naeem,
Taliban spokesman 

“Everyone wants to meet our leader. And we would also like that, but in the right circumstances. There is communication between us and the Turkish embassy in Doha. And we like to have relations with all countries,” said Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem in a written statement to MEE. “We have said our word to Turkey about the security of Kabul airport in all frankness and clarity. All foreign forces must leave our country.”

The Taliban’s spiritual leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, has not been seen in public since 2016. The group’s current public face is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, who is leading the political office and is part of the group's negotiating team in Doha.

Even though Ankara continues to insist on carrying the airport mission that it sees as vital to the security and work of the foreign missions and aid groups in Kabul, the rapid collapse of the Afghan forces worries Turkish officials. One US official told the Washington Post on Tuesday that the US military now assesses that a collapse of Afghan forces could occur within 90 days. Others said it could happen within a month. Footage coming out of Afghanistan on Thursday indicated that the second largest city, Kandahar, was about to fall into Taliban hands, along with Herat. 

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'Face-to-face dialogue'

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar paid a visit to Pakistan earlier this week to put pressure on Islamabad to convince the Taliban to accept Turkey’s presence in Kabul. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday after talks with Akar that efforts would be made to facilitate talks between the Taliban and Ankara. "The best thing is for Turkey and the Taliban to have a face-to-face dialogue. So both can talk about the reasons why Kabul airport has to be secured," Khan said. "And so we will be talking to the Taliban, to use our influence on them, to have a face-to-face talk with Turkey."

The Turkish public has recently been agitated by footage that indicates an increasing flow of Afghan men pouring into Turkey from the Iranian border. Erdogan said that Ankara was building walls along the Iranian and Iraqi borders to stop the arrival of irregular migrants.

Naeem, the Taliban spokesman, said that his group has issued a general amnesty for everyone who worked “even with the occupation” and that people who left the country could come back.

“We do not want the Afghans to leave Afghanistan, but we want the Afghans who are abroad to come to Afghanistan, for the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” he said. “Our country needs cadres. Those who leave Afghanistan and claim that the Mujahideen will hold them accountable or harm them [should know that] this is completely untrue.”

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