Taliban warn Turkey against plan to run Kabul airport
The Taliban Tuesday warned Turkey against plans to keep some troops in Afghanistan to run and guard Kabul's main airport after the withdrawal of foreign soldiers, calling the strategy "reprehensible" and warning of "consequences".
Ankara, which has offered to run and guard the airport in the capital after NATO withdraws, has been in talks with the United States on financial, political and logistical support. read more Turkey has repeated that the airport must stay open to preserve diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, where a blast rocked Kabul on Tuesday and clashes have intensified across the country. read more
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan condemns this reprehensible decision," the Taliban said in a statement, referring to Turkey's plan. "If Turkish officials fail to reconsider their decision and continue the occupation of our country, the Islamic Emirate... will take a stand against them."
In that case, the militant group added, the responsibility for consequences would fall on the shoulders of those who interfere. The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, have been fighting for 20 years to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule.
Emboldened by the departure of foreign forces by a September target, they are making a fresh push to surround cities and gain territory.
Afghan Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday evening that Turkey agreed to some points with U.S. counterparts on running the airport and work towards a deal continues. "The airport needs to remain open, be operated. All countries say this. If the airport does not operate, the countries will have to withdraw their diplomatic missions there," he said.
Talks now involving ministries should be complete by the time U.S. forces leave, a senior Turkish official told Reuters. "We still think there will be an agreement on the airport. We want to side with the Afghan people," the official said.
Police said a blast rocked a busy area of Kabul on Tuesday, killing four people and wounding five. It was not clear who was behind the explosion or the target. Clashes were continuing in the southern province of Kandahar, said Attaullah Atta, a provincial council member, with the Taliban being pushed back after a bid to break into a city prison. Hundreds of families had fled the violence, he added.
Taliban do not want to fight inside Afghanistan's cities
The Taliban do not want to battle government forces inside Afghanistan's cities and would rather see them surrender, a senior insurgent leader said, as the militants also warned Turkey against extending its troop presence.
The hardline Islamist group has swept through much of the north as foreign troops complete their withdrawal, and the government now holds little more than a constellation of provincial capitals that must largely be resupplied by air.
On Tuesday, the head of a Taliban commission that oversees government forces who surrender urged residents of Afghanistan's cities to reach out to them.
"Now that the fighting from mountains and deserts has reached the doors of the cities, Mujahiddin (Taliban) don't want fighting inside the city," Amir Khan Muttaqi said in a message tweeted by a Taliban spokesman. "It is better... to use any possible channel to get in touch with our invitation and guidance commission," he said, adding this would "prevent their cities from getting damaged".
The strategy is one well-worn by the Taliban -- particularly during their first rise to power in the 1990s -- cutting off towns and district centres and getting elders to negotiate a surrender. Muttaqi's comments came as the defence ministry said Afghan forces had cleared Qala-i-Naw city after days of fighting.
The Badghis province capital saw sustained street fighting last week in the first assault by the Taliban on a major urban centre since foreign troops commenced their final withdrawal in May. The call also came the same day as a video emerged that CNN said it had verified showing a group of Afghan commandos being gunned down by the Taliban in June after surrendering.