The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan will come together this week in Ankara with Turkey’s president for the seventh trilateral summit. Very much like the 2011 summit, which convened amid tensions produced by the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanettin Rabbani, this year’s summit will most likely be dominated by security issues as it will be realized shortly after a failed suicide attempt on the Afghan intelligence chief.
Though he stopped short of officially accusing Pakistan, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai claimed that the assassination attempt against Afghan intelligence chief Asadullah Khalid was planned in the Pakistani city of Quetta. The Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, but Karzai recalled that the militant group often makes exaggerated claims about attacks on foreigners or government targets and said he believed the gang was not behind the attack in the heart of Kabul. “Apparently the Taliban claimed responsibility like many other attacks, but such a complicated attack and a bomb hidden inside his body, this is not Taliban work… It’s a completely professional [job]… Taliban cannot do that and there are bigger and professional hands involved in it” Karzai said.
What Karzai wanted to say but stopped just short of saying was that he believed Pakistan was behind the attack. Indeed if the leadership of the Afghan Taliban fled to Quetta after their government was toppled in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.; if Karzai says the assassin came from Quetta and if the assassination attempt was a “professional job” what he tried to say becomes obvious.
The trilateral summit, therefore, will apparently start with tensions brewing between the Afghan and Pakistani capitals. The trilateral summits process, anyhow, has never been a problem-free occasion. Even the start of the trilateral summits at the initiative of President Abdullah Gül was problematic. At the time, up until the trilateral summit convened, a news blackout was applied out of fear over the security of the guest presidents. Indeed, though today the upcoming trilateral summit is being treated as routine by the Turkish media, at the start of this process the Pakistani and the Afghan presidents coming together in Turkey as guests of Turkish leaders to discuss their bilateral problems was very much like a utopia under the conditions of the time.
From top commanders to interior and exterior ministers and top bureaucrats, the visiting two presidents will be accompanied by very valuable teams that will tackle, with the help of their Turkish hosts, all difficult issues on their agenda, be it intelligence cooperation, collaboration in the fight against all kinds of trafficking or overall security matters and insurgency-related classified dossiers.
Turkey’s contributions to the improvement of climate between the two countries with which Turks have fraternal relations deserve a standing ovation. The success achieved in bringing together and achieving a miraculous rapprochement of understanding between Pakistan and Afghanistan indeed demonstrates the role Turkey ought to play in its geographical as well as cultural region. The role of a trusted friend that could play the role of go-between, a mediator, a fence mender.