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U.S. may maintain embassy in Afghanistan after Turkey agrees to secure airport

FILE PHOTO: Afghan passengers walk past Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 29, 2016. REUTERS / Omar Sobhani / File Photo

Turkey will secure the airport in the Afghan capital after the withdrawal of US troops, in a deal designed to help the US, Britain and others keep their embassies open.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Joe Biden his nation will play a leading role in protecting the air link from increasingly besieged Kabul.

Contingency plans to keep the airport safe had become a priority for diplomats seeking to operate after U.S. troops left by September.

Officials had said they were unlikely to run embassies if they couldn’t guarantee the safe evacuation of staff, or if there was any chance of the airport falling into their hands. of the Taliban. Australia has already closed its embassy in the city after saying it could not guarantee the safety of staff.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said the issue was discussed by leaders at the NATO summit this week.

“The clear leadership commitment has been established that Turkey will play a leading role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport and we are currently working on how to execute to achieve this,” he said. .

Turkey, as a predominantly Muslim nation but also a member of the Western Alliance, has played a key role in Afghanistan since 2001, including sending troops in non-combatant roles and, more recently, hosting Taliban and government officials for talks on the future.

The United States embassy, ​​meanwhile, was strictly closed Thursday after being struck by a series of Covid-19 infections in the country’s third wave of cases.

A notice sent by embassy management said 114 people from the sprawling and heavily guarded mission had contracted Covid-19 and one died, with several more having been medically evacuated.

The embassy said it was confining all staff to its quarters except for food, exercise or relaxation on their own, with all team sports and most indoor meetings banned.

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