Turkey should stay in Afghanistan
There are several reasons why Turkish military and civilian personnel should remain in Afghanistan. Allow me to state a few of them:
-Since 2007, Habibe Kadiri Girls School in the northern region of Jawzjan, with 600 students, has been administered by Turkey, with Turkish women teachers employed at the school.
-More than half of the 85 schools that were constructed or restored by Turkey throughout Afghanistan are girls’ schools or schools where girls receive part-time education.
-The nursery school that was inaugurated in 2010 in the Faryab region graduated its first 30 students last autumn, and a new building was constructed for the school.
-Turkey has granted Afghan students 2,300 scholarships between 1992 and 2011. Twenty-five percent of the 210 scholarship granted for 2011- 2012 have been earmarked for girls.
-Since 2006, literacy courses for women, as well as courses on child care, sewing and food processing, have been given in 33 villages.
As a woman I am biased, and have mentioned just a few of the projects that target Afghan women, but the list is much longer, including projects that do not target only women. These projects should not be considered mainly as part of the current Turkish government’s commitment to NATO’s operation in Afghanistan, but as the continuation of Turkey’s support of the modernization of Afghanistan, which began in the early 20th century. So even if NATO leaves Afghanistan, Turkey should and will continue these projects and its support for the country, with which we have a deep historical relationship.
The current security situation does not and will not allow, even for some time after the NATO forces pull out, for a purely civilian presence. Despite the fact that Turkey has refused to fight against the Taliban in the country, this has not kept the latter from targeting Turkish officials. Fortunately, Turkish representatives have not suffered any casualties in those ambushes, which have taken place only a few times.
Additionally, although Turkey has been sensitive in extending its support to all ethnic groups, without any discrimination, the Turkish military presence is a source of comfort for groups that feel ethnically close to Turkey, such as Uzbeks, Turkmens and even Hazaras. The same is valid for all the members of the Turkish business community that has a significant presence in the country, and lucrative business projects there.
The strategic power struggle that is taking place in Afghanistan among regional and international actors is something that Turkey cannot remain indifferent to, and which requires a significant presence in the country. NATO membership does not allow for “a la carte” commitment. Yet Turkey has managed to keep its support to Afghanistan useful and meaningful, avoiding combat operations, which has kept the risk of staying in the country to a minimum. The fact that NATO has made tremendous mistakes and has lost the war to the Taliban does not invalidate the reasons for Turkey’s presence.
Finally, al-Qaeda and the Taliban have greatly tarnished the image of Islam throughout the world. One would hope that Turkey’s presence in Afghanistan after NATO’s pull out will contribute, however little it may be, to curbing the extremism of the Taliban, as its say in the future of the country increases.