Turkey could remain in Afghanistan to provide technical support to the Taliban in operating Hamid Karzai International Airport in the capital Kabul following the evacuation of its troops, a top Turkish official said Wednesday.
"After our troops withdraw, we could continue this operational task at the airport there. If it is agreed in the terms and an agreement is reached in this direction, we will continue to provide this service there," said Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin.
The National Defense Ministry announced Wednesday that Turkey has started evacuating its troops from Afghanistan.
Since 2002, the Turkish Armed Forces have operated in Afghanistan under the UN, NATO and bilateral agreements to contribute to the peace, welfare and stability of the Afghan people, the statement said.
Speaking to the NTV news channel, Kalin said the troop withdrawal would take up to 36 hours.
"After fulfilling their duties in an excellent and honored way, Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan are returning home. Turkey will continue to work for the peace, security and prosperity of our Afghan brothers and sisters," he said earlier on Twitter.
Kalin also underlined the importance of securing the airport, adding that negotiations continue on Turkish civilian experts providing technical support at the airport.
He also questioned the Taliban's "capacity" on "establishing the security structure" at the airport.
He recalled that Turkey's civil diplomatic mission is continuing its duties in Afghanistan, although some employees have been evacuated.
"Our ambassador is there, our embassy employees are there. We evacuated some of them, but the main staff is there, and they continue their work," he said.
Relations with Taliban
Speaking on relations with the Taliban, Kalin said the "steps to be taken in the field" would determine the main agenda for relations between the two sides.
At this point, he said, the "most important step" is the establishment of an "encompassing, embracing and inclusive government" in the war-torn country.
He also recalled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's approach that the Taliban's actions and not words will determine the future course of action in Afghanistan.
The Turkish government approaches the messages from Taliban leaders with "cautious optimism for now," said Erdogan, adding that Ankara continues to be in "close dialogue" with all parties in the country.
Speaking on the matter of refugees, Kalin said: "We have taken new measures to prevent illegal migration. Turkey is no one's migration warehouse."
He pointed out that in the case of a migration wave, neighboring and bordering countries will be affected first and urged the international community to take responsibility for migration.
"Turkey has done its part on the migration and refugees issue. It is neither possible nor likely to receive a new load after this."
Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Turkey, which already hosts 4 million refugees, more than any country in the world, is taking new security measures within and on borders to prevent a fresh influx of migrants.