ISTANBUL – Turkey is continuing its plan to take over the security of Kabul international airport after the withdrawal of US troops, despite opposition from the Taliban. Ankara is in negotiations with Washington to secure the airport, which analysts say is essential to maintain stability and an international presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have warned Turkey of the dire consequences if its army remains in Afghanistan when other foreign forces withdraw, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in remarks this week, appeared to downplay those threats and indicated that the negotiations would end. would continue.
Erdogan says whether at the level of the Foreign Ministry or at its level Turkey is trying to see what kind of talks it can have with the Taliban and where those talks can take them.
Ankara is banking on its historic ties to Afghanistan and its status as the only predominantly Muslim member of NATO to help quell Taliban opposition.
The 500-strong Turkish force in Afghanistan has also avoided any military confrontation with the Taliban.
However, Huseyin Bagci, director of the Ankara-based Institute of Foreign Affairs, who recently returned from the region, warns that Ankara is overestimating his position.
Any Turkish involvement in the airport would be disastrous for Turkish foreign policy. Taliban, they said they didn’t like Tayyip Erdogan and didn’t like the Turkish military presence. The Taliban are very determined to expel all forces there, and Turkey’s presence there is definitely undesirable, ”Bagci said.
Turkey is continuing discussions with Washington on the airport mission. Both sides describe the talks as productive. Relations between NATO members have been deeply strained, in particular due to Ankara’s deepening ties with Moscow.
Ilhan Uzgel, columnist at Wall information portal, said that Ankara considers the Kabul airport mission as the key to re-establishing relations with Washington.
The most important thing is that the AKP government is trying to mend the ties with the Biden administration, and they want to deliver something good for them. Ankara is trying to prove that it is a very good ally; he is a valuable ally and cannot be ignored, “said Uzgel.
Turkey is looking to its close allies Pakistan and Qatar, which some observers have had close ties with the Taliban, to overcome the group’s opposition. But Bagci warns that with the Taliban believing they are about to take power, the importance of these countries is diminishing.
The Taliban do not see Pakistan, Qatar and Turkey as the countries “that should be on the priority list; no, they are not, ”Bagci said. “Politically speaking, Russia, China, Russia and America, and maybe India to some extent. The Taliban say, we establish our state, then we negotiate.
Just weeks before the end of the withdrawal of US forces, analyst Uzgel warns that if the Taliban maintain their opposition, Ankara could find itself trapped.
If Turkey insisted on keeping troops there, it would be risky. If Turkey gives in to the Taliban’s recent statement, it would be a humiliation for Turkey, Uzgel said.
Ankara having little influence over the Taliban, Uzgel suggests that a last-minute collapse of US-Turkish talks over the airport operation could provide a rescue option for Ankara, but at the expense of bilateral ties.
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