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Biden agreed to Turkey defending Kabul airport, says US official

US President Joe Biden (R) speaks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to a plenary session of a NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, on 14 June 2021. [OLIVIER MATTHYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
US President Joe Biden (R) speaks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to a plenary session of a NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, on 14 June 2021. [OLIVIER MATTHYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed on Turkey's offer to take a leading role in the defence of Afghanistan's Kabul Airport, the US National Security Advisor has revealed.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Jake Sullivan said that the two leaders discussed the situation in Afghanistan during their meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit on Monday. According to Sullivan, Erdogan sought certain unspecified US assistance for Turkey in return for the deployment of Turkish troops at the airport following the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the country. Biden apparently accepted this.

"The clear commitment from the leaders was established that Turkey would play a lead role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport," explained Sullivan. "And we are now working through how to execute to get to that."

The security of the airport in Kabul is seen as vital for the operation and continuation of diplomatic missions to Afghanistan. It would serve as the safest exit point for diplomats in the event of a potential security breakdown in the country, such as the Taliban's defeat of Afghan government forces.

READ: It's time for Turkey and NATO to build bridges, not burn them

Last week, however, the Taliban also warned Turkey to withdraw its troops and said that its military presence at the airport would not be welcome. "Obviously we take seriously the concern that the Taliban or other elements in Afghanistan will attack the Western or the international presence," said Sullivan. "We do not believe that what the Taliban has said publicly should or will deter the efforts underway right now to establish that security presence."

The agreement between Ankara and Washington comes after years of strained relations between the two over a myriad of issues. A primary dispute remains Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system, which the US and other NATO members condemned due to the system's potential breach of the alliance's security.

Sullivan addressed that issue, revealing that there was no progress and the two leaders maintained their respective positions. "They discussed it. There was not a resolution of the issue. There was a commitment to continue the dialogue on the S-400 and the two teams will be following up on that coming out of the meeting."

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