Tough mission awaits Turkey in Afghanistan
Turkey and the United States are continuing talks for the former’s continued stay in Afghanistan for safely running the international airport in Kabul. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on July 9 that these talks were aimed at drawing the scope of the Turkish mission in Kabul, while Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stressed that Turkey was in talks with other countries that are willing to join Turkey in this mission.
He also recalled that Turkey has been in Afghanistan since 2001 under NATO missions and has been running the airport in the past six years. But things are changing very rapidly in the country, making conditions much more difficult for non-Taliban supporters and foreign troops planning to stay.
Intelligence reports leaked to the American media suggest that the Taliban could entirely establish control just in few months after the withdrawal of the U.S. troops and impose its radical Islamic rule. There are no signs that the Taliban is going to abandon violence as clashes have recently intensified across the country. A CNN International report featured a video of the execution of 22 Afghan commandos by the Taliban on June 16, although they surrendered unarmed.
In the meantime, the Taliban continues to threaten the countries, including Turkey, that are planning to operate the airport in the coming period,
Questions over how the security of the Turkish troops will be provided once international troops will be pulled back entirely are still lingering. As the content of the Turkish-American deal has not been disclosed, it continues to be one of the most important questions over the prolonged Turkish mission in Afghanistan.
With the Taliban planning to take over the administration, many Afghans worried for their lives are seeking to flee the country either through legal or illegal ways. Countries bordering Afghanistan are warning the international community over a refugee influx, and therefore, a humanitarian crisis in the coming months.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned on July 13 of an imminent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as the escalating conflict brings increased human suffering and civilian displacement. An estimated 270,000 Afghans have been newly displaced inside the country since January 2021 – primarily due to insecurity and violence – bringing the total uprooted population to over 3.5 million, said the U.N.’s refugee agency.
Hulusi Akar said Turkey was closely watching the developments in Afghanistan, including a potential refugee influx towards Turkey, which is one of the target and transit countries for Afghan migrants for years. It won’t be a surprise to see more Afghans flocking into Turkey as the security conditions worsen in Afghanistan.
Being one of the poorest countries of the world, Afghanistan can hardly avoid a complete collapse in the face of a severe humanitarian crisis and under the violent Taliban regime. It, therefore, requires substantial international assistance and care.
Naturally, the absence of international focus will further complicate Turkey’s new mission in Afghanistan. Turkey’s deal with the U.S. should foresee continued cooperation and engagement between the two countries and other NATO partners so that the former’s mission succeeds.