Turkey is desperate to find a way to work with the Taliban and get control of Kabul International Airport
It has several agendas. It wants to control Afghanistan as a key route to China and Iran and also to sit astride global jihadist moments from Idlib to Kabul, so it can use them for its own agenda to become an Islamic world leader.
Turkey’s ruling AKP Party is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and it wants to work with Malaysia, Pakistan and other countries on what it sees as “Islamic” causes, such as pressuring India over Kashmir. But it has pragmatic reasons for cooperation with the Taliban as well: Kabul can be the key to influence over Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia.
Turkey’s military presence in Afghanistan is to strengthen the new Kabul administration
‘s hand in the international arena, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week. Erdogan means he wants to help the Taliban, much as Turkey’s Qatar ally has helped them.
Ankara will also position itself as a faucet controlling the flow of Afghan refugees into Europe. It will use this refugee pressure to get funding from Germany in exchange for stemming the tide of Afghans. Turkey is building a wall on the border with Iran to keep Afghans out – and wants control of the airport to ship them back. Germany, a key ally of Turkey, as well as other European states, will likely pay it to crush the hopes of refugees, as European Union states have done since 2015.
Taliban fighters march in uniforms on the street in Qalat, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, in this still image taken from social media video uploaded August 19, 2021 (credit: REUTERS)
But what is Turkey saying about its role in Afghanistan?
Almost all Turkish media is controlled by the government or is linked to far-right groups that support the governing AKP Party, so Turkish headlines can be construed as mimicking the government narrative.
“Turkey will exert all efforts for stability in Afghanistan,” the Daily Sabah said last week.
Meanwhile, at government-run TRT an article noted: “How international actors laid the groundwork for Taliban rule.”
“Despite the Taliban insurgency’s strength and its powerful local connections across the country, many experts think that some regional players and international actors, primarily the US, have played a crucial role in facilitating Taliban rule across Afghanistan,” the article says.
Turkey, which is working with Russia on buying S-400s and has new deals with China, is also interested in what they think.
Russia and China want the Taliban to keep ISIS and Al Qaeda weak in Afghanistan and not be a platform for terror, according to the article.
A more interesting article on the pro-government news site Anadolu on August 16 argues that “Turkey seeks to position itself according to realities of [a] emerging new world order… As the axis of history moves from Atlantic to Pacific, Turkey aptly consolidates multilateral dimension of its foreign policy.”
This article encapsulates the worldview of Ankara in its move to push some of its chess pieces into Afghanistan with the hopes of working with China, Russia and Iran to control Kabul. Much like the US and Soviet Union moved into Berlin in 1945, Turkey sees this as a key moment. As the US declines, the new global leaders will move into the proverbial Berlin of 2021, which is Kabul.
The post-American world which came in the wake of the US Global War on Terror is one where Turkey, Russia, China and Iran will work in concert, not against each other, to weaken the US.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif attends a news conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul, Turkey, January 29, 2021
(photo credit: TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTRY /HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)