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Will Turkey’s Afghanistan ambitions backfire?


Turkey’s plans to leverage a role in Afghanistan to achieve its broader goals appear misplaced.

At a time when many countries are leaving Afghanistan, Turkey has been searching for ways to stay. By helping run Kabul airport, Ankara believes it can gain a foothold in Afghanistan, which would in turn help it achieve its broader goals. However, the Afghanistan crisis is becoming increasingly regionalized and Afghanistan’s neighbours are likely to play a more prominent role, while Turkey – devoid of a security role – will at best be a marginal player.

In order for Ankara to leverage Afghanistan for other purposes, it first needs to ensure any role it plays at Kabul airport has a security dimension to it and is not a strictly technical or civilian role, partly because Ankara lacks other sources of influence in the country.

For instance, Qatar plays an important role in the diplomatic space as facilitator, as many countries engage with the Taliban in Doha, but can also provide Afghanistan with both civilian and technical assistance. Turkey also does not share a land or a maritime border with Afghanistan and its potential influence would therefore not be comparable to places like Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh or Libya, where Turkey plays a prominent role.

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