Ankara is pursuing both its Islamic and pragmatic geopolitical agendas in Kabul. Despite its concerns, it sees the Taliban win as a boost for its global aspirations.
https://www.jpost.com-By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
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)
Turkey is desperate to find a way to work with the Taliban and get control of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai 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 that 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 ally Qatar has helped them.
Ankara will also position itself as a faucet controlling the flow of Afghan refugees into Europe. It will use the 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, and other European states will likely pay it to crush the hopes of refugees, as European Union states have done since 2015.
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,” Daily Sabah reported last week.
Meanwhile, an article at government-run TRT World’s website was titled: “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 said.
Turkey, which is working with Russia to buy 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 terrorism, according to the article.
A more interesting article on the pro-government Anadolu news site said last week: “Turkey seeks to position itself according to realities of [a] emerging new world order… As the axis of history moves from [the] Atlantic to [the] Pacific, Turkey aptly consolidates [the] 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 that came in the wake of the US Global War on Terrorism is one where Turkey, Russia, China and Iran will work in concert and not against each other to weaken the US.