By Mohammad Mazhari

Ex-Turkish FM says NATO countries’ reliance on U.S. has suffered seriously

September 10, 2021 - 18:1
Yakish says U.S. has not abandoned policy of harming people in other countries 

TEHRAN - Former Turkish Foreign Minister Yashar Yakish says the U.S. has done nothing but harming the people of the region and the world at large.

“The U.S. has not deviated from its usual practice of harming the peoples of foreign countries, as it has done in the past in Vietnam and Iraq,” Yakish tells the Tehran Times.

U.S. President Joe Biden withdrew all American troops from Afghanistan, completing the military exit by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that drew the United States into its longest war. 

The negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban for the withdrawal of the American troops started during the Trump administration.

Ordinary Americans closely watched the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, as they did at the start of the war nearly 20 years ago, in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks. 

But Americans often tended to forget about the Afghanistan war. The war in the Central Asian country received measurably less oversight from Congress than the Vietnam War did.

The war's death toll for Afghans and Americans and their NATO allies are in the many tens of thousands, and generations of Americans to come will be paying off its cost, in the trillions of dollars.

 “The death toll of Afghan civilians is around 50,000 and that of the U.S. soldiers 2,450. The damage caused to the country’s physical infrastructure is beyond description. The progress achieved in the fulfillment of the targeted aims is almost zero. The 20-year war made the Afghan people more antagonistic towards the U.S.,” Yakish explains.

The former Turkish chief also says, “The NATO countries’ reliance on U.S. deterrence has also suffered seriously. European members of NATO started to raise the question of whether they should not rely more on their own means.”

Following is the text of the interview:   


Q: What is Turkey’s posture on recent developments in Afghanistan? Does Turkey prefer to cooperate with the Taliban? 

A: Despite the geographic distance that separates Turkey from Afghanistan, the relations between these two nations were very close in the last hundred years. The technical assistance extended by Turkey in the 1920s are considered the first examples of technical assistance in the world. King Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan was so eager to be inspired by the Kemalist reforms in Turkey in the 1920s that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk had to suggest Amanullah Khan that he should not go so fast in introducing these reforms, because he thought that the Afghan people may not be as receptive as Turks to absorb such reforms.

Furthermore, a big majority of Turks and Afghans embrace the same Hanafi school (madhab) of Sunni Islam. Turkey volunteered to guard the Kabul airport after NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Turkey was eager to assume this mission mostly to keep the relations with the U.S. and EU warmer and to promote itself as a valuable player in the region, but the Taliban politely declined this offer. Now, negotiations are underway, to find out whether suitable conditions could be created for Turkey and Qatar to assume the responsibility of running the technical services in the airport. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a pre-disposition for the Taliban regime and is eager to help the Afghan people –with or without the Taliban- to come out of the present imbroglio. In one of his statements to the media, he said: “There is nothing contradictory in Turkey’s attitude towards Taliban”. This statement caused a strong protest in the secular circles in Turkey. Furthermore, a 1985 picture shows Erdogan kneeling by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-i Islami in Afghanistan. These two backgrounds have to be perceived as a positive approach by the Turkish president to the Taliban’s Afghanistan.  
  
Q:  How do you assess U.S. performance in Afghanistan over the past two decades? 

A: The U.S. has not deviated from its usual practice of harming the peoples of foreign countries, as it has done in the past in Vietnam and Iraq. More than two trillion U.S. dollar American taxpayers’ money is spent during the last 20 years in Afghanistan. 

The death toll of Afghan civilians is around 50,000 and that of the U.S. soldiers 2,450. The damage caused to the country’s physical infrastructure is beyond description. The progress achieved in the fulfillment of the targeted aims is almost zero. The 20-year war made the Afghan people more antagonistic towards the U.S. 

On the other hand, the NATO countries’ reliance on U.S. deterrence has also suffered seriously. European members of NATO started to raise the question of whether they should not rely more on their own means.   

Q: How can regional powers like Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan help restore peace to Afghanistan? 

A: It is worth noting that the countries specifically invited to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Taliban’s ministerial council are confined to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and China. 

Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan can and should definitely help Afghanistan whether the Taliban maintains the power or not. However, there are limits to what these three countries can economically achieve in Afghanistan. China has more means to help it. Nonetheless, it will probably ask the Taliban to strictly control the Afghan soil regarding the activities of Uighurs and terrorist organizations such as the Eastern Turkistan Brigades.

Russia is another country that may be interested in providing assistance to Afghanistan. It considers Central Asia as its former backyard. Furthermore, it fought in the past in Afghanistan. This experience is very important. It has deeper knowledge about the Taliban and power balance in the country. 

Despite this background, no foreign country should militarily intervene in the Taliban’s affairs. The assistance should be economic and other methods of soft power. 

 Q: How do you see Turkey’s foreign policy in recent years, especially when it comes to Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan? Do you think the policy of zero problems with neighbors was successful?

A: Turkey started to follow an overstretched foreign policy in the Middle East (West Asia) since the Arab Spring. Its Syria policy is totally ill-advised. In line with the repeated statements contained in the final communique of the Astana-Sochi summits between Turkey, Russia, and Iran, it has to fulfill at once its respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. It has to resume the diplomatic ties with Syria and negotiate with Damascus a realistic policy for the Syrian Kurds.

In Libya, Turkey is doing the right thing by providing military assistance to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord. However, now that a caretaker government is established and will organize the elections in December this year, Turkey has to abide by the invitation of the Libyan government to withdraw its forces from the Libyan soil. Turkey is reluctant to do it because other countries that have a military presence in Libya continue to keep their military presence in Libya. 

In Afghanistan, Turkey is likely to maintain good relations with the Taliban and help stabilize the country. 

Q:  How do you assess Turkey’s approach toward Ikhwan al-Muslimin (Muslim brotherhood) as apparently the Taliban are inspired by the Islamic educations of Ikhwan al-Muslimin?

A: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), like the Taliban, has an ideological affinity with the Muslim Brothers. This affinity is also the reason for the strained relations between Turkey and Egypt. The common favorable approach of Turkey’s ruling party and Taliban may also help establish smoother relations with Afghanistan.

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