Turkey will pursue an active diplomacy that aims to keep the door of dialogue open, while taking steps with its allies and international organisations to remain in contact with all groups in Afghanistan.
With the complete disintegration of the Afghan military, Afghanistan and the Taliban are once again dominating the global agenda. Although some commentators approach it with a sense of deja vu, recalling a pre-2001 Afghanistan, we may be facing a very different Taliban. For one, it seems that almost all of the leading states have accepted the reality of the movement and are trying to understand the kind of political system it will establish. So far, only Canada has made it clear that it does not recognise the Afghan government under Taliban authority.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the initial statements of the Taliban spokesman, saying the second Taliban administration would give more importance to fundamental rights and freedoms than the first, as positive. In fact, Turkish officials and Westerners alike want to be cautiously optimistic about these initial words from the movement, though they have expressed concern about human rights violations, and the hindering of the education of women and girls in particular.
Turkish decision makers have been in conformity with other international actors until now, and will likely continue being active in political, economic and security issues in the region in the future. While doing this, Ankara will attempt to take steps within the framework of joint action with NATO, as well as the UN and EU, and its allies.
Until a few weeks ago, Turkey was willing to run the Kabul International Airport under certain conditions following the US withdrawal. Now, the Turkish government is trying to predict the next moves of the Taliban and is developing potential scenarios accordingly.
Unlike other countries, Turkey displays some unique characteristics and relations in Afghanistan, which entails a more active and dynamic policy compared to other Western countries.
First, the presence of Turkish forces that operate the Kabul Airport and will protect it until August 31 stands as an important issue. Although the Taliban openly stated that Turkish troops should leave the country like other NATO forces, Turkey's diplomacy in this regard and contacts on this issue continue. It is understood that the Turkish government is in dialogue with both the Taliban and Turkey’s allies. However, in the last instance, if the Taliban is not convinced on the matter, Turkey should not be expected to push this situation any further.
Second, although around 1,000 Turkish citizens returned to the country, over 4,000 Turks preferred to remain in Afghanistan. In other words, under Taliban rule, Turks will continue to produce, do business and work in Afghanistan, which is undoubtedly a situation that the Taliban desire.
Finally, the immigration problem, which has become a domestic political issue in Turkey, requires Turkey to work very closely with Afghan rulers. The issue of immigration from Afghanistan to Turkey has never been as much a part of domestic politics in Turkey as it is now. The Turkish government is also taking steps to address the growing public concern about the fight against illegal irregular immigration. It is frequently stated by the government that the 295 km border between Turkey and Iran will be completely closed with a wall.
Even under Taliban rule, Afghanistan will continue to be an important country for Turkey. Turkey-Afghanistan relations have always been special since the personal friendship between Amanullah Khan and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Afghanistan will remain in the heart of Asia and the Turkic World that Turkey attaches great importance.
The Taliban can help or complicate the work of the states that are optimistic about dialogue with Afghanistan's new bosses. If the Taliban restores the ruthless system it established between 1996 and 2001 and puts pressure on different identities, ethnic and religious groups living in Afghanistan, especially Afghan women, for Western countries including Turkey, forging a dialogue with Afghanistan will become quite difficult.
However, if the Taliban government can establish a system that will protect the rights and freedoms and take care of women's rights in particular, with such a relatively “moderate” system, it will be easier for Turkey and the Western states to do business. In addition, it will be able to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a place where militant groups flourish and develop again - which is the foremost concern of the US and other Western countries.
It is not yet clear which option the Taliban will choose. When they entered Kabul, the Taliban had stated several times that they would not be the old Taliban in the face of a great flood of fear and anxiety among the people. However, it is unclear whether these statements will be transferred to concrete policies.
Essentially, it is clear that the Taliban has not yet reached the decision stage on this issue. Having come to power with a speed that even it did not expect, it seems that the Taliban were caught off guard on how to govern Afghanistan, and in this respect, it is understood that the Taliban did not have enough time to deeply think about the Afghan administration.
Perhaps for the Taliban, more difficult times are just beginning. World history is full of examples of “the revolution devouring its own children”. Therefore, the issue of how the newly established political regime in Afghanistan will evolve remains uncertain. Turkey, like other regional powers, tends to adapt to this process with a dynamic foreign policy.
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