Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia, China, Taliban

Turkey, situated between the two great civilizations of east and west has always played an important role in the ever-changing global dynamics in the past, especially in the Muslim world, ranging from a unique non-combatant capacity building of war-torn Afghanistan to humanitarian aid of surrounded Gaza.

After 9/11 attacks, when US led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) initiated “Operation Enduring Freedom”, the Turkish government provided all necessary non-combatant support to ISAF to resolve the problems of common Afghan people, resulting in an everlasting impact on the minds of Afghans despite of the fact that both the countries do not share any common border. Turk-Afghan relationship is expressed through several quotations in Afghanistan, they say: “no Afghan was ever killed by a Turkish bullet” and “no Afghan trained by Turks has ever betrayed his country”. In 2007, Turkey took the initiative of holding a trilateral summit with Afghanistan and Pakistan for security and stability of the region.

With $783 billion and 3,529 lives spent alone on Afghanistan by Department of Defense, United States, peace and stability efforts are still a vague possibility. Recent reports clearly indicate that Afghan Taliban are slowly and gradually regaining control of Afghanistan’s rural populace; their complete control may still take time to materialise but with ever increasing desertions of Afghan National Army (ANA), less or almost no air support, and high casualty rate, the troublesome morale and discipline of 350,000 personnel and around 1000 generals; the ANA is not faring well. Failure of any sustainable and long term solution of Afghanistan’s problem is due to many reasons, the most recent development being the emergence of self-labeled Islamic State (IS) especially in areas adjacent to the border of Pakistan.

Despite a continuous military operation against terrorism in the last decade, Pakistan is still fighting with the menace of terrorism within its borders. Operation Zarb-e-Azb successfully destroyed the safe havens of terrorists on Pakistani soil and practically eliminated the existence of any no-go areas in Pakistan. However, terrorists took advantage of the porous border and the incapacity of Afghan National Army to manage their own territory and were able to flee and take shelter on Afghan soil. The recent wave of terror compelled the military establishment to launch another operation with the name of Radd-ul-Fasad to end sleeper cells of terrorists on Pakistani soil.

Keeping in view the evolving scenarios inside Afghanistan and the hybrid nature of the threat, it is very unlikely that Pakistan will succeed in defeating terrorism by all means until peace and stability in Afghanistan becomes a reality. Worsening socio-economic conditions of war-torn Afghanistan is an equal concern for Pakistan as it will have a spill-over effect inside Pakistan. Pakistan is hoping and willing to find a permanent and sustainable early way out for Afghanistan, while keeping in view the emerging new mega economic venture of CPEC. It is only logical to help the next door neighbor to settle down their house and maintain its order.

One can safely assume that the US and ISAF failed to establish peace inside Afghanistan in the last 16 years after the 9/11 due to several reasons. Pakistan on this crucial juncture should shift its paradigm towards new options for acquiring desired results of conflict resolution. In this regard, Pakistan along with China and Russia must hold trilateral meetings to discuss deteriorating state of affairs in Afghanistan.

Turkey seizing the opportunity to leave a legacy, chose to be on board of this tri-lateral axis of China, Russia, and Pakistan separately, and collectively on many fronts including economics, defense and strategic co-operation. Keeping in view the fact that Turkey’s accession in European Union is still a dream, it’s an opportunity for Turkey to join hand with the powerful block of trilateral coalition on Afghanistan and play its role side by side for conflict resolution and to gain strategic depth towards its natural allies.

Pakistan, despite its contributions and sacrifices for Afghanistan, due to misperceptions has earned a bad repute among most of the Afghan policy makers. Turkey’s positive posture in Afghanistan along with its constructive contributions to people of Afghanistan will be of valuable addition to the three countries’ efforts. It shall also provide an opportunity to Turkey to put forward Afghan people’s concern in future planning of Afghanistan and in the provision of better alternatives by playing the role of a mediator that can derive a win-win situation for all stake holders.

Turkey’s initiative will take its relations with the three nuclear-armed states and two veto powers to a new threshold of confidence building measures, and it will also help in shifting fulcrum of power towards Asia and East. Turkey, while shaking hands with the trilateral block, may get into a position to not only ensure the security of strategic interests of Russia in its backyard but may also become an instrument to settle down Russian interests in Syria.

Many strategists believe that the key to Syria’s conflict resolution is possible in case of Turkey allying with the Russians and ensuring a strategic partnership that will outsmart all other stake holders from Asia to Middle East. To forge that key, the Turkish policy makers should carefully calibrate their moves inside Afghanistan with the trilateral block of Asia. This is how they can be deemed trustworthy enough to play a role in settlement of Syrian quagmire.

The idea of Turkey’s involvement with the Asian trilateral block for dialogue on Afghanistan may look far-fetched and unorthodox but it has potential favors for both sides on equal terms. The future of Afghanistan is at cross roads, and now is the time for Turkey to decide on which side of history it want to be.

Anas Abdullah

is the Executive Director, CSCR. His expertise include ‘Domain Militancy and Counter Militancy’ with a particular emphasis on Counter Narrative, Kashmir Conflict and Middle East's emerging scenarios. He tweets at @_AnasAbdullah

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