Turkey is reported to have offered to guard Hamid Karzai International Airport as questions remain on how security will be assured along major transport routes and at the airport.
Turkey will play a "lead role" in providing security at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport after NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden's national security advisor has said.
Jake Sullivan told reporters that during their first bilateral meeting on Monday, Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "agreed that they would work together" to ensure the Turkish mission is established ahead of the US president's September 11 deadline to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan.
"President Erdogan indicated he would need, as you said, certain forms of support to do that, and President Biden committed that support would be forthcoming," Sullivan said on a conference call on Thursday.
"President Erdogan expressed satisfaction with that, and the two of them tasked their teams just to work out the final details, but the clear commitment from the leaders was established that Turkey would play a lead role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport, and we are now working through how to execute just that," added Sullivan.
Departure of the US-led NATO force
Speaking to reporters on Monday at the end of a series of meetings with NATO leaders, Erdogan said Turkey is seeking Pakistan and Hungary's involvement in the new mission in Afghanistan following the departure of the US-led NATO force.
Turkey, whose forces in Afghanistan have always been of noncombatant troops, is reported to have offered to guard Hamid Karzai International Airport as questions remain on how security will be assured along major transport routes and at the airport, which is the main gateway to the capital Kabul.
Asked about contingency planning, Sullivan said the US is also mulling the possibility of using security contractors with "extensive experience" in Afghanistan at the airport, but maintained Washington is "feeling good about where we are in terms of the planning with the Turks."
"But of course we are obviously also conducting contingency planning in the event that either Turkey can’t proceed, although we have every expectation they will, or can only proceed in a more limited fashion," he said.
'I don't see Saigon 1975'
The Kabul airport, developed after 2001 with support from the United States and Japan, is seen as crucial to the future of Afghanistan by providing an economic lifeline.
The Taliban warned earlier this month that Afghans should control "every inch of Afghan soil" including the airports. The United States is withdrawing from Bagram, the sprawling military air base near Kabul.
Asked on Thursday at a Senate hearing if militants such as Al Qaeda and the Daesh terror group could again pose a threat from Afghanistan, the original reason for the invasion, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the threat was "medium."
"I would also say, senator, that it would take possibly two years for them to develop that capability," Austin said.
General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a similar timeline but downplayed prospects that the Kabul government would crumble.
"I may be wrong, who knows, you can't predict the future – but I don't see Saigon 1975 in Afghanistan," Milley said.
"The Taliban just aren't the North Vietnamese Army. It's not that kind of situation."
The United States has been haunted by communist North Vietnam's takeover of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, and the hasty evacuations by helicopter as the longtime US ally fell.
Of special concern are some 18,000 interpreters, commandos and other Afghans who have applied for visas to the United States but are caught in a backlog.
Milley said that "planning is ongoing" but that the State Department was in charge.
State Department officials say they are expediting visas but want to avoid setting off a panicked exodus of educated Afghans.