Turkish troops evacuated from Afghanistan arrive in Ankara

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The first group of Turkish troops evacuated from Afghanistan landed in the country’s capital on Thursday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported, citing the country’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines.

The first plane carrying Turkish soldiers from Afghanistan landed in Ankara at 11:45 a.m. local time, according to a Turkish Airlines Press Office statement.

The group of 345 Turkish troops traveled from the Afghan capital of Kabul to Islamabad on a Turkish Air Force transport, then proceeded to Ankara on a Turkish Airlines flight.

Two more evacuation flights are set to take place, Anadolu said.

Turkey had more than 500 non-combat troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s now-abandoned mission in the war-torn country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara was still interested in playing a role in Afghanistan, keeping its lines of communication open with Taliban leaders.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday that Ankara has evacuated 1,404 people from Afghanistan — 1,061 of them Turkish nationals.

Çavuşoğlu added that only 200 or so Turks still wanted to get out of Kabul, leaving around 3,000 Turkish nationals who had told embassy officials that they were willing to stay.

The Taliban takeover of Kabul last week set off a wave of evacuations via the Kabul airport, with a Taliban deadline of next Tuesday, Aug. 31, to finish the evacuations looming.

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