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Turkey Will Continue Securing Afghan Airport, U.S. Says


WASHINGTON—The U.S. and Turkey have agreed to a plan for the Turks to continue providing security at the airport in Kabul, U.S. officials said, ensuring the U.S. and other nations can maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of troops, expected by next month.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters Thursday that both sides had made a “clear commitment” on the security of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“We are feeling good about where we are in terms of the planning with the Turks on this issue,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The issue of airport security is critical to the American diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. A Taliban takeover of the airport could make it impossible for American and allied personnel to safely evacuate the country. U.S. military officials also have said that without a secure airport, the U.S. embassy complex in Kabul would have to shut down and all personnel be removed from the country.

Taliban leaders already have expressed opposition to any foreign personnel, including from Turkey, remaining in the country to provide airport security.

Turkey, which long has provided airport security as part of its contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission in Afghanistan, had asked for extensive assistance from the U.S. as part of its condition to secure the airport, including political, financial and logistical support.

U.S. officials declined to say what the U.S. would give Turkey in return other than to say that Mr. Biden had made those commitments to Turkish President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

in a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Turkey also has sought to reduce U.S. and NATO pressure over its purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system, which has strained relations. Mr. Sullivan said there was no resolution of that issue in this week’s meeting.

There was no immediate response from Ankara on Thursday on Mr. Sullivan’s remarks concerning the airport talks, though the Turkish defense ministry said a day earlier that there was no final deal.

Turkey also has proposed working jointly with forces from Hungary and Pakistan to provide security at the airport, but hasn’t specified what role if any those countries would play.

Asked what the U.S. would do if Turkey leaves the airport mission, Mr. Sullivan said the U.S. was conducting contingency planning that relied on the use of contractors with experience in Afghanistan to secure the complex.

Other officials have said the only other viable option would be for Americans to guard the airport themselves. That is seen as unlikely because it would require hundreds of American military personnel to remain in Afghanistan, officials said, against the spirit of Mr. Biden’s decision to remove almost all American military personnel from the country.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com

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