Where is Turkey in the Afghanistan peace deal?

Where is Turkey in the Afghanistan peace deal?

International Women’s Day was probably marked in Afghanistan with additional anxiety. It is a continuous challenge to survive as a woman in the war-torn country. But this year’s women’s day took place under the shadow of the peace deal signed on Feb. 29, between the United States and the Taliban, adding additional shiver to women struggling for their rights. While a peace deal would supposedly inspire hope, not all in Afghanistan rejoice about the agreement, and especially women have reasons to be worried.
Unfortunately, the deal started to give signs of failure even before its ink started to dry.

One positive observation, which might help the deal to survive is war fatigue. Exhaustion from conflict and the understanding that no side will be able to win the war is said to be one of the main motivations behind the finalization of the deal. That the United States is the most eager part to sign the deal is a given since it is well known that U.S. President Donald Trump wants U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. This, however, might prove to be the main weakness of the agreement, and even the timing of the deal transpires a sense of rush, which could be detrimental for the deal. The result of last year’s presidential elections are contested, and there were two swearing-in ceremonies that took place last Monday, March 9, for the two rival politicians.

In addition, while the Taliban might be tired of fighting against the U.S. and NATO forces, early signs are not encouraging on whether the same feeling of exhaustion is valid when it comes to fighting against the Afghan government, with which it is actually supposed to conduct talks according to the deal.

While there are conditions to the full withdrawal of U.S. troops, the secrecy surrounding the deal, as the annexes have not been made public leaves the impression that U.S. soldiers will leave the country at all costs. An unnamed U.S. official’s remark to an Afghan woman: “We are not going to keep letting our soldiers get killed for Afghan women,” according to a Washington Post article does not allow for optimism.

If the Taliban were to exploit the disunity among the Afghan groups and were to push them out violently out of joint governance of the country, this would mean going back to square one, with a legacy of 18 years of bloodbath.

Will the Taliban, which in the past even banned watching television, take the country back to the dark ages? Has it changed so much that it will not revert the gains of women? There are no clear answers to these questions.

Still one wants to think that blood was not shed for anything for 18 years. Can this at least serve to learn from mistakes? That foreign interventions should be the last resort? That designing policies in accordance with that country’s historic, social and cultural features are essential? That spending more money and energy to improving the socio-economic life can be more helpful than a military surge?

The Afghan experience has had and will have lasting consequences. Syria and Libya certainly carry the marks of this experience. That’s probably why we now see more resort to proxy wars.

Turkey’s contribution to the peace deal

Turkey has a very special relationship with Afghanistan. It has drawn respect from all warring sides in the country. Turkey’s official residence which remained open at all times was one of the few buildings that remained untouched even at the worse stages of fighting.
Turkey’s presences as a country with a Muslim-majority population has added legitimacy to NATO’s first military mission outside of its traditional geography.

Turkey in the past has had several mediation efforts between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a key country without which no peace deal can survive.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid an official visit on Feb. 13 to Pakistan. He gave an unequivocal support to Pakistan in terms of India’s latest moves in the contested Kashmir problem. Was he equally blunt behind the scenes to encourage Pakistan to play a constructive role in the latest peace effort? Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu met Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on Feb. 16 during the Munich security conference.

He later attended the peace signing ceremony in Qatar on Feb. 29, which was the date the deadline given by Turkey to regime forces in Syria to withdraw to former positions in Idlib was to expire.

Is anyone curious whether Turkey has played a role in that deal? Anyone interested what Turkey thinks about the deal even though the deal was signed while Turkey was in the midst of a new cross border operation to Syria?

Not really. But it should have under normal circumstances. And, actually, it should interest Turkey and the public opinion much more since the collapse of the peace deal and the eventual intensification of fighting could lead to more refugees from Afghanistan.

But when you have fire on your immediate doorstep, and tens of fallen soldiers killed in foreign lands, the aspiration of being a regional power playing an important role in conflict resolution becomes unfortunately a luxury.