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Taliban ‘looks forward’ to working with Turkey

August 18, 2021 at 9:19 am

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban in Qatar, attends the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in the Qatari capital Doha on 7 July 2019 [KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images]

A spokesman for the Taliban has said that the movement is looking forward to working with Turkey, Anadolu has reported. Suhail Shaheen made his comment in an exclusive interview with Turkish television.

He affirmed the movement’s desire to maintain relations between Turkey and Afghanistan. “It is a good thing that a brotherly country stands here with us. We want to establish good relations with Turkey, be close to it, cooperate with it and support it.”

Commenting on the developments in Afghanistan, a Turkish source said that his country is engaged in talks but criticised US policy over its withdrawal process. The source told Hurriyet that Washington had let down its friends and allies, adding that US President Joe Biden implemented Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw without any consultation with his allies in an unplanned and poor way, thus handing Afghanistan over to the Taliban.

The Turkish newspaper said that Ankara is holding many talks with several parties and decided not to leave Afghanistan quickly as Western forces did, especially the US. It was pointed out that there was no Afghan request in this regard.

Hurriyet added that what is important is how the Taliban movement will form the new government in Kabul, especially as it does not wish to be isolated internationally as it was in the past. It needs to manage relations with its neighbours.

There is a question mark over the future of the Coordinating Council that includes the Chairman of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, and the former mujahideen leader and politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which was formed to negotiate with the Taliban. According to an official source in Ankara, the two men told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani two days before the Taliban entered Kabul to leave the country so as not to increase tension.

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The source highlighted that Turkey prefers to wait until the political process in Afghanistan is complete before taking any definite decisions. Nevertheless, it has been holding talks with the political wing of the Taliban movement via Qatar, and with the military wing via Pakistan. Direct talks are also being held behind closed doors through the Turkish intelligence agency.

Turkey has investments in Afghanistan through the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), and there are many Turkish schools in the country. Ankara is reported to want a stable Afghanistan and fears a civil war or the country becoming a magnet for terrorist groups, which will have a negative effect on Turkey with an increase in the number of asylum seekers.

The Taliban is seeking to communicate with the international community and is discussing the presence of the Turkish forces at Kabul Airport, said Hurriyet. Turkey, of course, is a member of NATO. It has reassured the movement that its troops are at the airport to help stability.

Many diplomats are still in the Afghan capital. Their presence will help to shape the nature of the administration being formed and determine the future of Taliban relations with other governments.

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