Saturday, September 25

Turkey stands as NATO’s last link with the Taliban


Brussels

Updated:

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Confirmed the departure of the last soldiers of the European allies from Afghanistan, with the complete withdrawal of the large German contingent, Turkey becomes the essential actor in the military field and political in this turbulent time that followed the failure of the largest military operation in the history of NATO outside its natural area of ​​influence. Turkish soldiers are the ones guarding the Kabul airport, which has become the last western bastion and refuge for the few foreign diplomatic representatives, including the American charge d’affaires, who still remain in Kabul after the entry of the Taliban. The top Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has promised that he will do “everything possible

to ensure stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region, ‘taking advantage of its privileged relations with Pakistan, which is now the main ally of the Taliban. Ankara spokesmen have assured that so far there has been “no negative development or threat against the Turkish troops deployed at the airport.”

Germany which had one of the largest military contingents in that country after the Americans, already withdrew in June the last 570 soldiers from the northern city of Mazar i Sharif, where they had remained for about 20 years keeping the peace in one of the most delicate areas from all over Afghanistan. In the last transport, the members of the KSK special forces also left, whose mission was to ensure the last installations and the process of transferring the soldiers. In general, all the European allies had already proceeded to evacuate their military before the summer, bearing in mind that the Americans planned to extend the process until September. The countries most involved in addition to Germany and Turkey were the United Kingdom and Italy, although there were also partners such as Ukraine that maintained a symbolic presence of 10 soldiers in the latest NATO operation ‘Resolute Support’.

The United Kingdom had announced on Friday the dispatch of 600 paratroopers to evacuate the British, including interpreters and other Afghan personnel, “in light of the increase in violence and the rapidly deteriorating security environment in the country.” London has decided like many other countries to abandon its embassy and withdraw the ambassador and all diplomatic personnel, before the Taliban seize power. France had already ordered the departure of all its civilian nationals on July 17 and only left its embassy also thinking that it would be necessary for the ambassador to also take refuge in the Kabul airport, which is now the only way communication to leave the country that is not yet under the control of the Taliban. Italy has also withdrawn all its military personnel and in the last hours was executing the operation ‘Aquila Omnia’, “for the humanitarian evacuation from the Afghan territory of all the Afghan collaborators of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as soon as possible, through of an airlift secured with commercial flights on August 16 and from 17 with military aircraft.

Turkey is aware that its main political asset at the moment will be precisely being the last to leave Afghanistan, perhaps reestablish contacts with the Taliban and, above all, intensify cooperation with Pakistan to try to contain the expected influx of refugees to Europe, as it has already done in the case of Syria. In this way, the US reluctance over its decision to buy anti-aircraft missiles from Russia, which had greatly irritated within NATO, or its anti-democratic drift, which causes serious concerns in the European Union, go to the background.

This may have repercussions when it comes to also reinforcing its presence in Libya or in the tensions with Greece and Cyprus due to their attempts to seize energy deposits that may exist in the economic zone of the island. Erdogan had the opportunity to show his privileged position on Saturday during the handover ceremony in Istanbul of a corvette built by Turkey for the Pakistani navy, also in the presence of Pakistani President Arif Alvi. Both held a meeting in which of course they discussed the takeover of power by the Taliban and the change of scenery across the region. “Concerns about a new large influx of refugees stemming from the growing instability in this region can only be avoided with our cooperation,” Erdogan said. Both Turkey and Pakistan estimate that they will receive an avalanche of Afghan refugees through Iran.

Turkey controls Kabul airport for now with around 500 soldiers and has negotiated with the United States its role as a continuation of the allied presence in Afghanistan. The flag carrier Turkish Airlines currently operates up to 10 flights a week from Kabul to evacuate its nationals. Turkish diplomats and those from other countries, including North Americans, remain in the protected perimeter of the capital’s airport.

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