Turkey is aiming for a greater geopolitical role by engaging in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of western troops. After US President Joe Biden asked his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the recent NATO summit in Brussels that Ankara would be responsible for safeguarding Kabul’s international airport, Erdoğan never tires of portraying his country publicly as a future major player in the.
The Turkish head of state called on the rebellious radical Islamists to end the “occupation” of their own country and to come to a peaceful agreement with the other peoples of Afghanistan. Erdoğan, who himself pursues a policy that is partly Islamist, went so far as to say that, unlike other nations, Turkey has no problems with the views of the Taliban. “The Taliban should be able to speak to Turkey much more easily because Turkey has no problem with its religious positions,” he said.
The Taliban have vehemently rejected any role Turkey plays after the last NATO troops had withdrawn. They will “defend themselves” if the Turks do not withdraw. The Afghans regard Turkey as a valued and friendly Islamic nation, said a spokesman for the militia. But the Turkish troops in the country came 20 years ago as part of the NATO troops, which the Taliban viewed as “occupiers”. Afghans should be responsible for securing the airport.
“Turkey is a fraternal nation, we have a lot in common in faith,” said the Taliban spokesman. “We would like Turkey to let the past be the past and look to the present and the future. Then we would be open to a dialogue.”
Despite the blunt rejection of the Taliban, who are currently by far the strongest faction in the Afghan civil war, Ankara seems to believe that it can play a fruitful role. The military experience in the civil wars in Libya, Iraq and Syria are likely to play a role here. In Libya, for example, Ankara sided with the officially recognized government in Tripoli and averted its imminent defeat through the use of mercenaries, drones and Turkish troops; Ankara is now one of the most important players in the conflict, which is characterized by open interference by foreign states.
In addition, Turkey was able to demonstrate its military technical strength when Ankara assisted Azerbaijan in the Caucasus conflict, especially with the use of modern combat drones, and contributed significantly to Armenia’s defeat in the Karabakh War in autumn of last year.
Should Turkey have to get involved militarily, it would probably rely less on its own troops than on Syrian mercenaries with combat experience, who have already been successfully deployed in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus. According to Turkish media reports, such fighters are currently hired for a wage of several thousand dollars a month.
It is fitting that Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu prepares the Turks for foreseeable losses in international conflicts. In view of the rising number of fallen Turkish soldiers in Syria, Soylu said: “Forming a nation is not easy. A country becomes a nation by wearing coffins with the flag with the star and crescent moon and standing in a closed row during Friday prayers,” said he. The opposition reacted angrily and said that the country had made enough sacrifices during the war for the republic’s independence. Erdoğan’s political opponents also reject the possible involvement in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the CHP, the largest opposition party, said to the government: “Our soldiers are not a shield to be held up to the Taliban. If you are so keen on Afghanistan, then send your mercenaries who like to pose with weapons.”