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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Erdogan willing to talk to Afghan Taliban

Erdogan has shown his will to connect with the Taliban for cooperating in Afghanistan.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Ankara is willing to cooperate with the Taliban after they took over Kabul on 15th August. As quoted by Anadolu Agency, “We are ready for all kinds of cooperation to preserve peace for the Afghan people, [ensure] safety for Turkish nationals living in this country and protect interests of our state.”

“We will also meet with the government to be formed by the Taliban if necessary, and discuss our mutual agendas,” He said during a five hour Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Tukey had initially set its plan to secure Kabul airport, but the new realities on the ground have created more space for Turkey’s influence. Erdogan in a televised interview said that “Turkey is ready for all kinds of cooperation for peace in Afghanistan, the well-being of our kin in the country and protection of Turkey’s interests.”

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He said he was open to seeing the new and moderate Taliban. Furthermore, he stated that Turkey’s military presence within Afghanistan will not diminish. Instead, it will offer the new government more support to retain strength in the global arena. Erdogan emphasised,” No matter who is in the administration, standing with Afghanistan in good and bad times is the requirement of brotherhood.”

As of now, Turkey has evacuated 552 Turkish citizens from Kabul.

Turkey’s increased influence

Turkey has picked up on its leadership role in South Asia (Afghanistan), not just as a member of NATO, but as a Muslim country. Turkey’s influence is an important facet to the new geopolitics due to its deep-rooted historical, cultural, religious and ethnic ties with Afghanistan but also with Pakistan.

Turkey has been at the forefront, organising multiple summits like the Heart of Asia Conference, and Antalya Diplomacy Forum, in an effort to bridge gaps between Afghanistan and its neighbouring nations. Therefore, Turkey’s role from this point is likely to expand in Afghanistan, seeing the Turkish ethnicity footprint that exists within Afghanistan. Plus, Afghanistan also serves as a gateway to Central Asian states.

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Hikmet Cetin, Turkey’s former deputy prime minister and Nato’s former senior civilian representative for Afghanistan, once said that “Turkey has a historical and moral responsibility to play a role in Afghanistan”.

Erdogan has confidence in acquiring Afghanistan as part of his influence after successive interventions in Libya, Syria, Iraq and even Azerbaijan.

For Pakistan, Turkey’s involvement boosts its confidence, as both countries now have more room to coordinate efforts.

Turkey’s wall

Despite sharing goodwill with the Afghans and the upcoming government, Turkey is not willing to bear the burdens of thousands of Afghan refugees.

“The situation is a huge risk for Turkey, there is no doubt. Iran will also stand to lose if the Taliban returns to its old ways and provides a safe haven” for Islamist extremists, Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told AFP.

Turkey’s initial plan was to sustain its strategic position at the Kabul airport to seek improvement in ties with the US.“The whole Turkish mission is in jeopardy as well as the idea of using Kabul airport as leverage in relaunching Turkey’s relationship with Washington,” Aydintasbas had told AFP.

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Regardless, Erdogan is willing to talk and set his foreign policy with the Taliban.