As The United States has begun its long-awaited withdrawal of troops from Afghan soil, clouds’ uncertainty hovers over the central Asian country. Fighting between Taliban combatants and the Afghan army in provinces, with the Taliban taking over 191 provinces in the last eight weeks, has caused enough chaos in the region.
However, according to experts, the recent tensions between Turkish President Tayyib Erdogan and the Taliban can potentially escalate and become one of the biggest hurdles for the Islamic Emirates to be established, as it can potentially disrupt the already disturbed peace process.
Beginning of the tensions
It all started following the first bilateral talks with US President Joe Biden, during a NATO leader’s summit in early June, the Turkish President announced that Turkish troops could continue to stay at Kabul airport to guard it and assist NATO’s withdrawal.
According to Al-Jazeera, Turkey has more than 500 troops in Afghanistan as part of a non-combat NATO mission. The soldiers have overseen training Afghan security forces, and some still serve at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in the capital.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Turkey, Amir Ramin said that the Afghanistan government will support Turkey’s mission to undertake at Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport after the complete withdrawal of US troops from the country.
However, as it continued to seize territories, the Taliban rejected the Turkish President’s proposal to guard and run Kabul’s airport after US-led NATO forces depart. “Turkey was part of NATO forces in the past 20 years so as much, they should withdraw from Afghanistan based on the agreement we signed with the US on February 29, 2020,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in June. He added that the Taliban hopes to have close and good relations with Turkey as a new Islamic government is established in the country in the future.
Former deputy prime minister and NATO’s former senior civilian representative for Afghanistan, Hikmet Cetin had earlier said that he believed it is Turkey’s historical and cultural responsibility to stay and assist the Afghan people after the NATO withdrawal, as long as Ankara has support from the West along with the Taliban’s approval.
About a week ago, another Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told TRT Arabi, “We want good relations with Turkey. Turkey is our brother and we have many points in common based on faith. We want Turkey to leave the past and return to the present and the future. After that, we can ask for dialogue.”
On the Afghan peace conference that is expected to be held in Istanbul, he said that the Taliban evaluated every opportunity to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region.
Taliban should end the occupation: Erdogan
Last week, Recep Tayyip Erdogan rebuked the Taliban and stated that the Taliban’s approach is not how Muslims should deal with one another. While speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said, “In our view, the Taliban’s approach right now is not how a Muslim behaves with another Muslim.”
The Turkish President added that the Taliban need to end the occupation of their brother’s soil and show the world that peace is prevailing in Afghanistan right away.
Analysts say that this was Erdogan’s strongest statement against the Taliban since its inception. Erdogan also said that Turkey was planning talks with the Taliban over the group’s refusal to let Ankara run Kabul airport after US troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
He said, “God willing, we will see what kind of talks we will have with the Taliban and see where these talks take us.” This was in reply to the Taliban calling the offer “reprehensible,” about a week ago. “We consider the stay of foreign forces in our homeland by any country under whatever pretext as occupation,” The Taliban had said.
Critics say that if the talks don’t succeed and Turkey continues on its insistence to stay in Kabul, it could potentially lead to another long-lasting conflict in the Central Asian region.