Turkish troops’ Afghan mission to end when Kabul says OK

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ANKARA

Turkey will recall its troops from Afghanistan whenever Kabul says OK, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

Addressing a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Erdogan said: “Afghanistan has been hurt seriously and we will continue to help them heal these wounds.

“Our armed forces have been in Afghanistan for security purposes from the beginning and now, as you know, we have a [training] mission there. We will continue obeying the chronological schedule decided by our Afghan brothers in accordance with the negotiations. We will recall our soldiers when Afghanistan says ‘OK’. “

The Turkish parliament authorized the government on Jan. 6 to continue posting Turkish troops in Afghanistan for two more years under a new NATO mission called Resolute Support, which was launched on Jan. 1, 2015.

As the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force ended its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the mission has evolved into training and advising of the nascent Afghan security forces.

“This is a training, advice and assistance mission,” Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said on Jan. 6, adding: “There will be no combatant operations.”

Ghani thanked Turkey for its support, especially in the security sphere.

“Turkish soldiers have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us,” Ghani acknowledged, adding: “Once again, we would like to thank you as you have stood by Afghan people”.

Erdogan also emphasized that Turkey’s cooperation with Afghanistan in political, economic, commercial and cultural fields would also continue.

Turkey and Afghanistan signed three agreements, including a memorandum of understanding on political solidarity, security cooperation and a declaration of will for the construction of a Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi Turkish-Afghan University campus in Kabul.

“Cooperating with our old friend, eternal brother Afghanistan is very important for Turkey,” Erdogan said.

Ghani called for more economic and cultural cooperation between Turkey and Afghanistan. He also appreciated investments coming in from Turkish investors.

He also recalled the fifth “Heart of Asia” conference held in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Dec. 8 and noted that a general framework had been created on counter terrorism.

He also underlined the importance of the TAPI pipeline project to link Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Before making the remarks, the Turkish president also held a detailed meeting with Ghani.

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