By Haider Abbas
Nothing could have been more surprising from what the voices from Turkey have come, in the tumult into which Afghanistan in right now into, as Turkey President Taiyyip Erdogan has related, according to Turkish news outlet DailySabah that Taliban must stop its occupation of Afghanistan. The Taliban should end the occupation of the soil of their brothers,” Erdoğan stated in a press conference. Erdoğan stated further that Turkey plans to talk with the Taliban over Kabul airport. Turkey, whose forces in Afghanistan have always consisted of noncombatant troops, has offered to guard the airport as questions remain on how security will be assured along major transport routes and at the airport, which is the main gateway to the capital Kabul. At the end of a series of meetings with NATO leaders on the sidelines of the alliance summit in June, Erdoğan stated that Turkey was seeking Pakistani and Hungarian involvement in the mission in Afghanistan following the departure of the U.S.-led NATO force. However, the Taliban have opposed Ankara’s proposal, saying that Turkey should also withdraw its troops in line with the 2020 deal for the pullout’. Turkey had been a part of NATO forces fighting against Afghan Taliban (AT) alongside US for the last 20 years.
If Taiyyip Erdogan deliberate use of the word ‘occupation’ is to be to perspective then it becomes clear that the same word has been used, by all and sundry, towards the US and NATO forces which had been occupying Afghanistan from the past two-decades and were forced-out by the resistance put by the nationalist forces which consisted of AT, and thus, US had to negotiate its withdrawal from Afghanistan which is now in its final stages. Erdogan stand is definitely an outreach of desperation as Turkey wishes to remain in Afghanistan after NATO withdraws too. For AT, as a matter of fact, Turkey would not be construed a friendly nation but actually an extension of NATO, which AT, want to leave at the earliest.
What the scenario getting built up, in the post-US withdrawal, is China investing in Afghanistan to carry its CPEC through it, in lieu of AT providing ‘peace and security’, Russia supporting AT and Iran also coming forward for putting into ‘development’ in Afghanistan, while Ashraf Ghani trying to hold to its last bastion, until this new spanner has been thrown by Erdogan, who ironically recently could not beyond his mere lip-service during the latest Israel war on Palestine. No wonder, his prowess to don the mantle of Islamic Caliph has just melted into the thin air and his dreams to reclaim the once Turkish Jerusalem from Israel, has remained nothing more than a hollow-claim. Nevertheless, the stand of Erdogan has sent all the international analysts into a tizzy as to what has prompted Erdogan to call for the word ‘occupation’.
It may be mentioned that AT were never to win over the non-Pashtun areas, as the past experiences have shown, but this time AT changed its strategy to first win Uzbek, Tajik and Harara areas and later on the Pashtun areas. The massive falling of district-after-district in AT favour is an outcome of the same. What is Erdogan referring to in this ‘occupation’ word? Is he pointing towards the AT control over non-Pashtun areas? Is he trying to ‘throw-into’ Turkey’s weight along Tajik areas, particularly in Badakshan and Wukhan Corridor? Obviously this has lead to an increase of acrimony between AT and Turkey as Turkey seem to have decided to ‘let-remain’ its forces inside Afghanistan even if it is to invite a fight with AT. This development is supposedly a new entrant in the already war-ravaged Afghanistan which ultimately would serve to the ends of US.
This new move has ‘turned-the-tables-upside-
All eyes are now fixed on the outcome of the AT and Erdogan meeting. What arguments Erdogan is to put forward will soon arrive as a breaking-news but AT had been ‘tough and smart’ as acknowledged by US outgoing President Donald Trump, and it is also very likely soon that AT government may this time be recognized by Russia and China-the two super powers of the world and also by England, as voiced by its Defense Minister Ben Wallace lately. Therefore, how much AT would accede to Erdogan is not very likely on the cards, particularly, when Erdogan has accorded AT an ‘occupation’ force!
If skeptics may be believed then is most likely that Turkey might have to ‘walk-back’ as AT by relenting to Turkey would signal ‘meddling’ in their affairs by outside nations and this would also ‘give a gripping sense’ to Erdogan who is quite engaged into ‘shadow-boxing’ to claim to being ‘the Islamic Caliph’ after a 100 years of the breaking of the Ottoman empire. This assumes all the more importance as AT too want to establish a state based on Islamic Shariah law as after all, the whole world had been toiling with AT to negotiate a government based on democracy which AT have as yet rejected.
The biggest question right now is for Pakistan which is toasted between the two contending partners. Erdogan demand is unjust and Erdogan dithering from his stand would be welcome. If the Turkish forces remained stationed inside Afghanistan, to keep NATO in good humour and remain be called a ‘sick-man-of-Europe’, will not help as when AT would attack, the coffins returning to Ankara would be just Erdogan’s nemesis. He has already fallen from grace during the 11 days Israel-Palestine war, which ended in a truce after Russian intervention, and now it is time to see if he makes Turkey slide further into a morass.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and a political analyst.