The Afghan radicals, being on the verge of completely grabbing power in Afghanistan, bridled at seizing the initiative by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who offered the Taliban to take over the management of the Kabul airport, provided that the United States put shoulder to the wheel.
Ankara has been leading military and logistics operations at the Kabul airport for the last six years as part of a NATO-led support mission. Currently, there are 500 Turkish soldiers in Afghanistan, who have never taken part in combat operations.
Erdogan said Washington wanted the airport to be operated by Turkey after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The issue was discussed by Joe Biden and Recep Erdogan at the NATO summit in June. "At the moment, we are taking a positive look at it. But there are certain terms we have. First, the United States will support us diplomatically. Secondly, Washington will mobilize its funds for us and transfer all the powers possessed in terms of logistics," the Turkish leader stressed. He also said Ankara would need "financial and administrative support".
Erdogan expressed hope for successful negotiations on this issue with leaders of the Islamic Taliban Movement (banned in Russia).
Such undue familiarity shocked the Afghan radicals, who had been waging an uncompromising war with NATO's US-led foreign military presence for two decades. Now Washington wants to leave its loyal ally in the country to look after one of the most important military and administrative facilities within the national infrastructure. In close vicinity to the capital, by the way.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid replied to Erdogan: "The safety of Kabul Airport and diplomatic missions is the Afghan responsibility. The Taliban will regard any divergent stance as interference in domestic affairs." On July 13, representatives of the radical movement notified the Turks that the presence of any foreign forces in Afghanistan is aggression, and the usurpers will encounter sharp resistance.
The group's press-secretary reminded the Turkish leader that "in the last 20 years, Turkey's position was 'inappropriate', as the Turkish military in Afghanistan remained part of the NATO contingent that fought against the Taliban." "We seek a good relationship with Ankara. You better send us your engineers, doctors, scientists and businessmen to restore the country," Mujahid suggested.
But everything runs off Erdogan like water off a duck's back: the Arab media is actively spreading information about Ankara's handing over to Afghanistan Syrian militants whom it used in Libya and the South Caucasus. Anonymous sources claim there are some three thousand mercenaries in the country, paid up to two thousand dollars a month by the Turks. They "develop" territories around the airport and transport highways leading to it, take up artillery positions and equip additional checkpoints. The Turkish military is mainly engaged in aviation flight servicing.
It has to be said that Erdogan's seemingly adventurous proposal is doomed to failure, judging by the harsh Taliban rhetoric. But it should be appreciated that the Taliban is a product of Pakistan's military intelligence, its own flesh and blood. The United States and Turkey have close allied relations with this country, with its leadership being generally hostile to the central Afghan authorities. Washington and Ankara bet that Islamabad would convince the Taliban of Turkey's operations accuracy, whose ruling elite's ideology is close to that of their "brothers in faith".
As for Erdogan, Afghanistan should become another outpost for the Turks to promote pan-Turkism in the countries of Central Asia. From the south this time. After all, Tayyip Recep Erdogan has made some progress in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, seducing their leaders with common interests, single religion, or even linguistic proximity.
Among other things, Erdogan needs to restore nosedived relations with the Americans, who will pay a fair amount of money for operational commitment. NATO has left Afghanistan, but Turkey is still there!
Does the US need Afghanistan? It does. Badly.
It's a safe bet that over time, the Taliban will succumb to the Americans and rush "across the river" to develop the neighboring territories. Despite all the recent assurances about their wish to maintain peaceful and good-neighborly relations with countries of Central Asia and Russia. Brother Jonathan and its allies will simply force the Taliban to launch a military expansion to the north, if they succeed in seizing power. Britons and Americans will never let Russia alone.
Erdogan is certainly taking a risk. Neck or nothing. But this game is probably worth the cost.