17.07.2021 Author: Vladimir Danilov

What will Turkey Do in Afghanistan?


At a time when the United States and NATO are hastily withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan, on top of chaos and the general population fleeing abroad in a panic and the Afghan military being abandoned by former Western instructors, the opposition is growing in Turkey to Erdoğan’s plans to take over from the United States in the IRA.

Let us recall that according to the statement of the US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Erdoğan have agreed that Turkey will take the lead in ensuring the security of Kabul airport.

In this regard, a deputy from the Republican People’s Party (RPP), former ambassador Unal Cevikoz, criticized the fact that Turkey has not withdrawn its military from Afghanistan, and Ankara’s decision to maintain the presence of the Turkish military in Afghanistan. In particular, he stated: “Striving to ensure the security of the Kabul airport means throwing Mehmetchik (the common nickname of a Turkish soldier – ed.) into the fire. We, as RNP, consider it inappropriate to undertake such a mission. We do not want our soldiers to come face to face with the Taliban, nor our historical fraternal relations with the people of Afghanistan to suffer.” Unal Cevikoz further explains the position of the RNP in the following words: “Pakistan, which Turkey is asking for support, shies away from providing such support. The authorities wish to present the presence of our military there after the withdrawal of NATO forces as a continuation of the obligations previously assumed by Turkey. However, Turkey’s military presence in Afghanistan was aimed solely at training, providing assistance and support to the Afghan security forces and did not involve any combat elements. The scope of the mission carried out by Turkey is clear, and it is linked to the assistance provided by NATO in the framework of the UN Security Council resolutions. From now on, there is no longer a need to continue this mission.”

The Turkish news agency Anadolu, against the background of these statements by Unal Cevikoz and other representatives of the Turkish opposition, published on July 7 a statement by one of the representatives of the Taliban (terrorist organization banned in Russia) Suheil Shahin to the British BBC that foreign militaries should leave Afghanistan before the well-defined withdrawal date. According to him, if the agreements reached in Doha with the United States of February 29, 2020 are violated, the movement’s leadership will decide on future steps, including in the Kabul region.

Nevertheless, as follows from the statement by the head of the press service of the American department John Kirby on July 8, the head of the Pentagon Lloyd Austin during the second telephone conversation in recent days with the Minister of National Defense of Turkey Hulusi Akar continued the discussion of Turkey’s security at the Kabul airport against the background of the withdrawal American contingent from Afghanistan. In particular, as a Pentagon spokesman noted: “Austin and Akar exchanged views on security issues, while agreeing to continue to interact on agreements on the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.”

The information that after the final withdrawal of the American military from Afghanistan the Turkish military may take their place has recently been disseminated by many media outlets.  Moreover, it is quite understandable that, when submitting this material, various goals were pursued, including deliberate fake news, in order to probe the attitude towards this issue both inside Turkey and abroad, to conduct appropriate assessments, and to identify the weaknesses of this approach. And also to establish those forces that will actively criticize or support this concept.

Moreover, in addition to the previously repeatedly voiced position of the Taliban representatives on the mandatory withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country, the political bureau speaker of this movement, Mohammed Naim, on July 3, in an interview with the Kurdish Rudaw TV channel regarding the possibility of Washington transferring some American bases and an airport in Afghanistan to Turkey stated the following: “The issue of foreign troops and their withdrawal has already been finally resolved. According to our agreement, all forces must be withdrawn, with the exception of diplomatic missions. This question has been finalized. Anyone who wants to stay in our country will be definitely considered as invaders. They should not remain a military force here.“

On July 13, in connection with the incessant publications of various media about the possible deployment of the Turkish military in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops, the Taliban made another statement: “Turkey’s decision is rash, it is a violation of our sovereignty, territorial integrity and contrary to national interests. The Islamic Emirate (the self-name of the Taliban’s governing system – ed.) strongly condemns this step by Turkey and believes that it will cause problems between the peoples of Turkey and Afghanistan. “ The Taliban also warned Ankara that if the Turkish military remains in Afghanistan, they will resist, and the responsibility for the consequences will be on the shoulders of “those who interfere in internal affairs.” “… We will fight the invaders on the basis of a fatwa dated 1422 AH Lunar (2001), according to which the war over the past 20 years has been a jihad,” the statement said.

Thus, the Taliban directly threatened Turkey with war as a response. The corresponding official statement was published by a number of Afghan media outlets. The statement also emphasizes that the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Afghanistan was stipulated by an agreement between the Taliban and the United States. In addition, in early June 2021, Taliban representatives additionally insisted on the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the country.

“Our policy does not change: we strive for positive relations with all countries on a reciprocal basis. We do not interfere in the internal affairs of others and will not allow anyone to interfere with ours,” the Taliban said.

The Turkish opposition and many ordinary citizens of this country do not like Erdoğan’s idea of staying in Afghanistan, ostensibly to protect the airport in Kabul, while NATO forces are withdrawing their contingent from the country. In this regard, it cannot be ruled out that this issue will be actively used by opposition forces in the near future, which may lead to an additional aggravation of the already turbulent situation in Turkey.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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