Turkey concerned over post-NATO Afghanistan

Turkey concerned over post-NATO Afghanistan

İsmet Berkan CHICAGO / Hürriyet
Turkey concerned over post-NATO Afghanistan

NATO chief Rasmussen (L), Turkish President Gül (C) and his US counterpart pose during the NATO meeting in Chicago. REUTERS photo

Ankara is greatly worried about Afghanistan’s future following the looming departure of NATO troops, Turkish President Abdullah Gül told alliance leaders May 20, suggesting that the organization is preparing little groundwork for the future.

“Let us not fool ourselves. We have spent so much effort and money on Afghanistan for an [entire] decade. If everything reverts back to the old order after [NATO’s] withdrawal, would not all this effort and money end up going to waste?” Gül reportedly told his counterparts at a dinner hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama after the NATO summit in Chicago.

Gül said Obama had requested their help in preparing the summit declaration, adding that his blunt and uncensored talk on Afghanistan during the dinner may have also paved the way for others to come out more easily.

“We did not even place our trust in the Afghan military, let alone the Afghan people. Take a look at Afghan troops on one hand, and the alliance troops on the other. They do not even have boots on their feet and helmets on their heads. We could not even win the [Afghan] troops yet. Trillions of dollars were spent, but no asphalt was laid on the roads of Kabul, despite the fact that it is a [low-cost] job,” he said. 

The Turkish president said they had always pondered military issues that would accomplish nothing if the alliance fails to win the locals’ hearts. “[The Taliban] would just return back if you withdraw. Let us emphasize humanitarian matters at least starting from today until 2014.”

U.S. forces are set to pull out of Afghanistan in 2013, while NATO is schedule to stay until 2014. 
Gül also said instability or the emergence of an undesirable situation in Pakistan would cost the world dearly and cautioned against ostracizing and cornering the South Asian country. 

“It is not right to adopt an ostracizing or antagonistic attitude toward Pakistan. You nearly did not call them to the summit. I spoke to [Pakistani President Asif Ali] Zardari; he says they killed this many of our troops and our citizens and did not even issue a single apology,” Gül said. “Do not forget; they are also administrators who come to power through elections and account to their people in the end,” he added.

“Zardari will not come [here]; then we are going to brag on our own about what great victories we have won and conclude the meeting to end up fooling ourselves,” he said.

Pakistan’s own security concerns must also be understood, he said, adding that the trilateral meetings between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey were highly important. “We are trying to [prevent] mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Gül further said he had acquired the impression that most NATO countries were anxious to withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible. 

The general at the helm of Pakistan’s intelligence said he would never have come to the meeting but attended nonetheless only because of Turkey’s call, he said. 

The historical friendship and cooperation treaty of 1921 between Afghanistan and Turkey will also be renewed, Gül said, adding that an agreement for strategic cooperation would also come about. “Our interest in Afghanistan, our presence there and our assistance will continue after 2014 as well,” he said. 

Gül meets new French president

Meanwhile, Gül also met with newly elected French President François Hollande on May 20. Gül reportedly inquired about the reasons behind France’s antagonistic attitude toward Turkey despite the lack of any conflict of interest between the two countries, as well as a host of mutually shared interests on every subject. 

Gül further asked Hollande why no French president had come to pay a visit to Turkey for the past 20 years, according to reports. 

In response, Hollande called for the reset and repair of Franco-Turco relations. Gül also met with German Chancellor Angel Merkel at midday on May 20, during which they focused on Europe’s economic problems and especially Merkel’s complaints about Greece, according to reports.