Relevant ministries and institutions are preparing a mandate in case any Turkish soldiers remain in the Afghan capital Kabul, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
Speaking to the Daily Sabah in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF 2021) in Istanbul, Akar said: “If necessary, parliament can be called for an extraordinary meeting.”
Akar explained that Turkish soldiers stationed at Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport are safe and performing their duties. Regarding the chaos that erupted at the airport when the Taliban entered the capital, the minister said people entered the airport because locally recruited staff left their posts.
It took a little over a week for the Taliban to take control of the country after a lightning strike that ended in Kabul as government forces, trained for two decades and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars have melted away.
“This situation lasted 24 hours, and then elements of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), UK, US and some local Afghan elements prepared the runways for the flights. Currently, they (the Afghans) do not want to leave the airport, they see the airport as a safe place, a shelter and wait, ”Akar said.
He said Turkey has taken all kinds of precautions and is ready to evacuate its military personnel if necessary, while Turkish citizens are also being evacuated.
Reiterating that Turkey will only stay in Kabul for as long as the Afghans wish, Akar stressed that Ankara does not have a secret agenda.
Ankara has offered to keep and operate Kabul Airport after the US and NATO withdrew from Afghanistan. Questions remain about how security will be provided along major transport routes and at the airport, which is the main international gateway to the capital, Kabul.
Airport security is critical to the functioning of diplomatic missions outside Afghanistan as Western forces withdraw. The airport is strategically located near the Afghan presidential palace and foreign diplomatic missions in Kabul and is the only place from which to evacuate diplomats in an emergency.
Turkey has been in Afghanistan in a non-combat role for 20 years and has been involved in advisory, reconstruction and maintenance efforts. It has operated the airport for six years.
“What is important are our Afghan brothers, the rights and interests of our people and our country and our moral values. In this context, Turkey is discussing with the institutions concerned. We are receiving positive signals; however, if something is wrong and we see a problem, we will leave the country within 24 hours, ”Akar said. Akar further stated that there is currently no country other than Turkey that wishes to take on the mission.
Speaking about the current situation at the airport, Akar said it was running smoothly, as evidenced by 146 flights in the past four days. On reports that gunshots were heard at the airport, the minister said the shots were fired to disperse the crowd and those who lost their lives were due to the shoving.
The Turkish embassy in Kabul, he said, is continuing work at the airport as the Turkish flag still flies over the embassy building because it was not the target of gunfire.
“We spoke with the German and British Defense Ministers, NATO and the United States, they said they were ready to cooperate and support Turkey’s presence there,” he said. he declares.
Closer to home, Turkey has recently seen an increase in refugees, especially from Afghanistan.
Concerns have grown about a possible increase in the number of Afghan refugees due to the United States’ withdrawal from the country after two decades.
Video footage has shown large groups of refugees in the area near the border with Iran, although the Turkish government says there has not yet been an increase in numbers.
Akar praised the efforts of the security forces controlling the borders and recalled that he had visited the Turkish-Iranian border last week to inspect the measures taken against irregular migration.
“We took physical measures. There are trenches 4 meters (13 feet) deep and 4 meters wide, modular walls, pits behind them and cables. 587 people have been arrested while attempting to cross the Iranian border since January 1, 2021, or about two people a day, ”Akar said, refuting claims that 50 to 60 people pass through Turkey daily.
He added that the claims of tens of thousands of migrants entering Turkey do not reflect the truth. Akar said a factory that poured molds and immediately made walls was established near the border. Construction of the wall across the entire Iranian border is now 65% complete.
He said the images showing Afghan refugees in large groups do not come from the Iranian border and that the images are intended to create biased perceptions among the population.
Regarding allegations that Iran would let Afghans pass into Turkey, Akar said Turkey had contacted Iran and had received assurances from Tehran that this was not the case.
“We do not see large crowds and movements at the borders,” he reiterated.
Trenching works, as well as the construction of the modular wall and high-tech observation towers to prevent illegal activities, are underway at the Turkish-Iranian border.
While nine Turkish battalions served in 44 security posts, one battalion, two expeditions and five divisions were deployed to the region along with 35 task forces and 750 special operations police in armored vehicles.
Drones and helicopters are also used by security forces to keep the region under control.
Turkey is not a pit stop for migrants, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said recently, adding that the country was taking the necessary measures to avoid an irregular migration crisis due to the situation in Afghanistan.
“YPG, the biggest problem in Syria”
Regarding the situation in Syria, Akar said the biggest problem was the Syrian wing of the PKK terrorist group, the YPG.
“We can solve the S-400 and F-35 problems with the United States one way or another, but we can’t go anywhere without solving the YPG. Unfortunately, our ally is still providing them with weapons, equipment and ammunition, ”he said.
Akar said it would be more beneficial for the United States to cooperate with Turkey in the Middle East rather than with a terrorist group.
The United States has mainly associated itself with the YPG in northeastern Syria in the fight against Daesh. But Turkey firmly opposes the presence of terrorists in northern Syria, which has been a major sticking point in the strained relations between Turkey and the United States. Ankara has long opposed US support for the YPG, a terrorist group that poses a threat to Turkey and terrorizes the local population, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the United States provided military training and military support trucks to the YPG, despite the security concerns of its NATO ally. While stressing that a country cannot support one terrorist group to fight another, Turkey has carried out its own counterterrorism operations, in which it has succeeded in eliminating a significant number of terrorists from the region.
Akar stressed that the PKK always receives help in all areas, including training, but regardless, the Turkish military is fighting them effectively.
“Terrorists cannot stay two nights in a row in one place. They are constantly changing locations, ”he said.
Tensions with Greece were another issue on the minister’s agenda, who strongly emphasized that Turkey has no problem with the Greek people.
He reiterated Ankara’s calls to continue good neighborly relations as well as dialogue to resolve mutual issues.
Akar said the areas of disagreement between the two countries are territorial waters, airspace, the situation and militarization of the Aegean Islands in violation of the agreements, and maritime jurisdiction.
“The number of retired Greek soldiers, politicians, diplomats and academics supporting our views has increased – this is important,” he noted.
He also criticized Greece for engaging in an arms race with Turkey.
“Don’t expect to take over the TSK with a few used planes and ships. Entering into such an adventure with so much foreign debt is against the well-being of the Greek people, ”he said.
Greece has allocated 11.5 billion euros ($ 14 billion) to modernize its armed forces over the next five years, at a time of heightened tension with neighboring Turkey.
Relations between the two NATO members, often strained, have deteriorated sharply over the past year, with warships clashing in the eastern Mediterranean in a dispute over maritime borders and energy rights.
Delivery of the 18 Rafale – 12 currently in service in France and six new planes to be built by Dassault Aviation – is expected to begin in the middle of the year and be completed over two years. The jets and the purchase of Meteor-compatible air-to-air missiles are expected to cost 2.3 billion euros ($ 3.4 billion).