Turkey: Negotiating With The Taliban

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September 14, 2021: Afghan refugee resettlement is a major domestic political issue in Turkey. Economic stress from hosting Syrian refugees is a major reason. Afghan refugees would bring more violence, from cultural differences and the threat of Islamic terrorists using refugee status as a cover. Turkey currently assists over four million refugees. An estimated 3.7 million are Syrian refugees. Over 200,000 Afghans are living in Turkey. Many of them have been in Turkey since mid-2011. A recent UN report noted over 500,000 Syrian school children attend Turkish schools. Some smaller Turkish provinces are particularly strained. In the south, on the Syrian border, Kilis province has a population of 140,000 Turks and it provides refuge for 105,000 Syrians. Fear of Islamic terrorism is another reason Turks are concerned about an Afghan refugee influx. Al Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) have launched attacks within Turkey. There is worry that terrorists in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatist movement might ally with “sleeper cell” Afghan militants mixing with Afghan refugees. Domestic political angle by opponents of president Erdogan and his strong presidency suspect a domestic political angle. Erdogan might try to give the refugees a quick pathway to citizenship, with the object of creating new pro-Erdogan voters. (Austin Bay)

September 12, 2021: In northeast Syria (Idlib province) the March 2020 agreement with Russia to establish de-escalation zones has failed. No one has officially called the agreement a failure but the increased Russian airstrikes in Idlib and the inability of the Islamic terror groups to control their more radical factions justifies increased Russian airstrikes. Turkey is less tolerant of Syrian troops resuming their efforts to push the rebels back after Russian airstrikes and artillery fire have weakened the Islamic terrorist defenders. Turkey overestimated its ability to negotiate deals with the Idlib Islamic terrorist rebels that control half the province and have nowhere to go, except Turkey. National elections are coming up in 2023 and polls show that the dominant AKP party, which has ruled since 2000, is going to lose, even with AKP vote rigging. In response AKP is backing away from its Islamic terrorist-friendly policies and the March 2020 deal, which Russia signed more to appease Turkey than because of any faith in Turkish assurances about negotiating with Islamic terror groups in Idlib. Turkish voters see Russia and Iran as ancient enemies who have not really changed. These same voters want better diplomatic, economic and military relations with Israel, something Turkey had enjoyed for decades before the AKP declared Israel an enemy.

September 9, 2021: Turkey and Egypt announced they intend to restore diplomatic ties before the end of 2021. However, a major issue remains unresolved. Egypt adamantly opposes Turkey’s involvement in Libya. The two nations broke formal relations in 2013. Turkey and Egypt began discussing normalizing diplomatic relations in May. Egypt is demanding that Turkey drop its support for the Moslem Brotherhood, which the Turks are seriously considering if that is the price of making peace with Egypt and other Arab states like the UAE, which consider the Brotherhood a threat.

The Moslem Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 as a political movement stressing clean government and the use of Islamic law. That has not worked out. In mid-2012 Egyptian election officials declared Islamic Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi the new president. Before president Mursi could do much, the Moslem Brotherhood radicals got violent in their demands that Egypt be ruled with Sharia (Islamic) law. That was what Saudi Arabia has used for decades but Sharia was very unpopular with most Egyptian voters. By 2014 angry voters had forced Mursi out and new elections put a former general (Sisi) into power. The Moslem Brotherhood once more became the enemy, except in Turkey, where a Moslem Brotherhood-like government had ruled Turkey since 2000 and had not had any problems with radicals. But Turkish voters were getting tired of their increasingly corrupt and inept Islamic government that seems to have declared just about everyone an enemy of Turkey.

Every time a moderate Moslem Brotherhood government gains power it fails because the radicals, there is always a radical faction, demand that an Islamic religious dictatorship be installed and this always triggers popular resistance. Some of those Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood radicals went rogue in 1987 and eventually established themselves in Gaza as Hamas. In 2005 Hamas took over Gaza and turned it into a sanctuary for all many of Islamic terror groups including, by 2014, ISIL. That led to Egypt treating Hamas as an enemy, not oppressed Palestinian freedom fighters. The Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood hurt its reputation in the early 1990s when radical factions, frustrated at their inability to achieve peaceful reforms in Egypt, turned to terrorism and were defeated after a bloody terrorism campaign aimed at the economy and especially foreign tourists, failed. Tourism accounts for 11 percent of the GDP and provides jobs (directly or indirectly) for 12 percent of the Egyptian workforce. Turkey could use the need for better relations with Egypt as an excuse to declare the Moslem Brotherhood an enemy, on paper at least. Turkish and Egyptian diplomatic officials are trying to find mutually acceptable lies to make this work.

September 8, 2021: In the east, neighboring Armenia announced it is willing to meet with Turkey to discuss repairing diplomatic relations. Armenia was responding to a statement Erdogan made in August, where he indicated Turkey was interested in normalizing diplomatic relations with Armenia. Turkey sees itself as the peacemaker in the Caucasus, a task Russia handled until the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.

September 7, 2021: In northeast Syria (Hasaka province) SDF (Syrian Kurd militia) fighters clashed with Turkish troops and their Syrian mercenaries, leaving one Turkish soldier and four Syrian mercs dead. SDF losses were not revealed. The SDF instigated these clashes in retaliation for earlier Turkish attacks on the SDF. While mainly Kurdish, SDF also includes Syrian Arabs and Turkmen

September 5, 2021: The government announced it expects inflation to fall to 16.2% by the end of 2021. Annual inflation in 2022 will be 10 percent. Critics called the government forecasts overly optimistic.

September 2, 2021: Persian Gulf Arab oil state Qatar announced that it is working with Turkey to provide “technical support” for restarting flight operations in Kabul’s airport. The Dutch government is also interested in assisting Turkey.

August 31, 2021: Criticism directed at Erdogan’s re-organization of the Turkish government continues to grow within Turkey and elsewhere in Europe. Erdogan introduced his new Presidential System in 2019. Now polls indicate well over half of Turkey’s population strongly opposes the changes. Erdogan claimed the new government structure would make parliament stronger. Instead, it is obviously weaker. Erdogan has also politicized the judicial branch. In other words, the new system undermined democratic separation of powers. The irony is, the powerful presidency means the president gets the blame for policy failures. Turkey’s economy continues to weaken – so who’s at fault? The center of power: Erdogan. The weakening of parliamentary power is proving to be a bitter pill across the political spectrum. Erdogan’s ruling AKP has lost support. Former AKP members have begun forming what are essentially splinter groups that oppose Erdogan’s strong presidency. Currently the splinter groups are small and not quite parties but with enough voters seeking a change, the splinter groups can easily turn into opposition parties. The former AKP leaders tell the media in Turkey and Germany they intend to form new alliances in future elections. Some of the splinter factions are moderate Islamists who once admired Erdogan. The state of emergency Erdogan instituted following the 2016 coup attempt ended in 2018. Now some of his former supporters say Erdogan’s new governmental structure effectively institutionalized “state of emergency rule.” (Austin Bay)

August 30, 2021: Iraq is negotiating the purchase of several new Turkish-made weapons. The multimillion dollar purchase will include 12 T-129 ATAH helicopters, six Koral electronic warfare systems and a still-to-be-determined number of Bayraktar TB2 armed UAVs. Iraq has a lot of success with Chinese armed UAVs since 2016, including the battle to drive ISIL out of Mosul. Turkey gains a lot of Moslem majority countries as customers because Turkish weapons have a good reputation, usually have combat experience, competitive prices and, most important, were developed and built by Moslems.

August 28, 2021: Turkey has begun reinforcing security on its eastern border. Afghan refugees have already begun crossing the border illegally. The government believes a surge in refugees will occur in the coming weeks.

August 27, 2021: President Erdogan said that Turkish officials had met in Kabul with the Taliban. The Turkish delegation is “assessing” the Taliban’s request for technical assistance in operating Kabul’s airport. Turkey is maintaining an embassy in a military facility at the airport.

August 25, 2021: Various sources throughout the Middle East report that on August 21 the Taliban asked Turkey for assistance in running Kabul’s airport. Today two Turkish officials confirmed that the Taliban sought technical assistance.

August 24, 2021: An estimated 20 Turkish military aircraft attacked PKK targets inside Iraqi Kurdistan (Sulaymaniyah province). The airstrikes reportedly hit 28 PKK “agricultural sites” in a rural area on the Turkish border. An observer reported that the attack in his area lasted 20 minutes and most of the aircraft conducting the strike appeared to be drones.

August 20, 2021: The Turkish government announced that media outlets receiving funding from foreign nations will now be subject to closer scrutiny. The justification is that the Turkish government needs to protect itself from “foreign powers.” Critics immediately accused the government of attempting to silence its opponents and destroy independent media agencies and publications through regulations.

August 18, 2021: Turkish media claim the government intends to create a regulatory agency named the “Presidency of Social Media” and impose prison terms of one to five years for either publishing or dissemination” fake news” on social media. There will be categories of charges for “disinformation” and “misinformation.” Individuals convicted of “defamation” could face three months to two years in jail. In July president Erdogan said his AKP party was formulating new laws to combat what he called “the terror of lies.” Erdogan already uses Turkish administrative agencies to punish opposition political media. This stifling and criminalization of opposition freedom of speech goes hand in hand with his government’s attacks on defense lawyers. Those attacks accelerated in 2016 following the July 2016 attempted coup. Defense lawyers now claim they are routinely threatened by government agencies and the police. (Austin Bay)

August 16, 2021: In Afghanistan, as Taliban forces took control of the capital, Kabul, Turkey declared it will not take over security at Kabul’s international airport. Around 600 Turkish soldiers remain in Afghanistan. Turkey had made plans with the Afghan national government and the U.S. to protect the airport after the U.S. withdrew. Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul on August 15. Domestic Turkish political opposition to the proposed airport security mission was fierce.

 

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