The Taliban has stated its willingness to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in order to discuss the conflict in Afghanistan and Ankara’s role there, but only “in the right circumstances”, it has been reported.
After Erdogan revealed on Wednesday that he could possibly hold a meeting with the Taliban leadership in an effort to resolve the disagreement about Turkish troops guarding Kabul Airport following the withdrawal of American and NATO forces, the group has now reportedly signalled that it would agree to such a meeting.
“Everyone wants to meet our leader,” Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem told Middle East Eye. “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.”
The Taliban has often been vague about the identity of its leader. Its spiritual leader Haibatullah Akhundzada has not been seen publicly, so the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is its public face and heads its political office.
Despite the positive sign that a meeting could take place between Erdogan and Baradar, Naeem reiterated the Taliban’s continued refusal to accept Turkey’s offer to guard Kabul Airport. “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 response to the meeting request comes days after Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar visited Pakistan to ask the country to convince the group to approve the presence of Turkish forces in Kabul. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan then apparently agreed that, “The best thing is for Turkey and the Taliban to have a face-to-face dialogue… And so we will be talking to the Taliban, to use our influence on the group, to have a face-to-face talk with Turkey.”
As the Taliban continues to make huge advancements in Afghanistan by taking control of ten provincial capitals in less than a week – including the major cities of Herat and Kandahar – it seeks to convince Afghans to remain in the country and for those abroad to return home to rebuild the country. A general amnesty for everyone, including those who worked “with the occupation” has been issued, said Naeem.
“We do not want the Afghans to leave Afghanistan, but we want the Afghans who are abroad to come to Afghanistan,” the spokesman explained. Afghans who have fled the country and think that the Taliban will punish them should know that “this is completely untrue,” he added.