The West Needs To Close Its Mouth And Get Off Its Hands On Afghanistan

Kabul Airport. 

By Rachel Brooks

July 6, 2021 

Commentary, Analysis, Opinion  

Turkey has taken incentive in Kabul. As the United States leaves with haste, Turkey, a NATO partner, is poised to take over the foreign security efforts in Afghanistan. The pro-Turkish government outlet Daily Sabah reports Turkish forces are securing the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport. fU.S. and NATO forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan accelerates as U.S. troops disappeared in the night from the nation’s Bagram base. 

Daily Sabah reports that Ankara’s role in Afghanistan is limited to the Kabul airport. Turkey will not engage in military operations. So far, it has not done this. The status quo has not changed, as of the report posted July 5. 

Kabul’s airport is vital to U.S.-Turkish relations, says political scientist Dr. Hamoon Khelghat-Doost. Khelghat-Doost pointed out the Afghan peace process’s high priority at the NATO Brussels summit in June. Khelghat-Doost notes the U.S. emphasis on Turkey’s Kabul air security effort. America supports this initiative, which will prove vital to U.S.-Turkish relations, says Khelghat-Doost. 

Afghanistan’s future sends shockwaves through the international community. The world fears a creeping civil war. The Taliban, Taliban opposition, and regional supporters poise for a stand-off. 

Russia and Iran pose a threat. The national aggression of these near-regional states adds stress to the international debate. 

NATO weighs “post-American” options. Foreign Policy wrote in June that the organization mulls training Afghani troops in Qatar and Pakistan. The outlet also notes that Ankara considers an expanding footprint in Afghanistan. Foreign Policy cited debates that vested interest countries “seek to supplant” the American influence of the past 20 years. 

This outlet argues that Turkey is in a subordinate position in its Kabul detail. Turkey provides training for Afghan soldiers as well as Kabul airport protection. In exchange, Turkey receives U.S. financial aid, writes FP. The media argues the facts alone make good communication. Consider the media portrayal of U.S.-Turkey relations. It may be due to Turkey’s press freedom crisis, but the western press is negative toward Turkey.

Editorialized tones limit communication. The unfortunate facts need not hinder constructive discourse. They serve as an opportunity for diplomatic engagement, but it goes wasted. It is due to a profound sense of righteousness in all things the western media conveys. The communication is that “our party is good” and “yours is bad.” There is no room for redress. This social cue from the western press appears to reflect on diplomacy. The west makes itself unapproachable. It constantly regurgitates social flaws without inviting the humility of an everyman’s view on solutions. It swears it does not do so. The media claims to protect the facts, but only for those that shatter this highly guarded crystal wall of superior intent.

The Turkish presence in Afghanistan is positive overall. Turkey has a chance to expand its post-American influence. The Taliban opposes Turkey’s presence at the Kabul airport, writes FP. The Taliban may see Turkey as a rival in this respect. Turkey has “warm ties” with both Kabul and the Taliban. This rivalry with the Taliban, and the ability to relate to both sides, makes it a poised negotiator. Turkey will negotiate based on Turkish interests. If the Taliban or other groups violate those interests, Turkey will act as a positive force in keeping the Taliban from surging into an international crisis. It may also act as a mediator to internal Afghanistan, as Turkey brings positive things to the Afghan society. The west’s role in this mediation would be to show Turkey the negative connotations of letting the Taliban have unchecked ranged. The west can act as the counterargument to Turkey’s pull toward politicized Islam. 

FP writes that Turkey’s Afghanistan footprint will have limits from rivalry with the United States. Media analysis portrays a “doom and gloom” outlook for Afghanistan’s future. Western headlines zero-in on “Taliban surges.” Experts warn of a “foreign policy disaster” decidedly without a path for salvation. The west likewise fears for its safety if the Taliban rises.

Ground reality dictates that the U.S. must evaluate a new era of “friends of friends” diplomacy. Turkey is the “brother nation” of Azerbaijan and Pakistan. Both of these nations are regional friends of Afghanistan. The stage sets up new trilateral diplomacy that capitalizes on these international brotherhoods. The “foreign policy disaster” may open doors to corrective measures tailor-made to meet the challenge of a post War on Terror world.

Real-time events show that the nations surrounding Afghanistan will respond to the security collapse. Reuters reported that Tajikistan deployed 20,000 troops to the border with Afghanistan after Afghan troops fled. Tajikistan reaches out to Russia, which has a powerful influence over Tajik security. The nations are responding with or without the west. The choices they make will define the region’s future with or out without the west. 

These decisions may jeopardize the west without their counterargument. Wars have soldiers and weapons. Yet, this not where they begin or end. American influence in Afghanistan promises post-militarized support. Promises it must keep if the west wishes to secure its future.

The U.S. faces an internal political crisis. Debate is vitriol-driven, seldom solutions-based. The division in America undermines its foreign influence. America undermines its criticism of nations when it negates its democratic processes. U.S. media and politics alike are often negative with regards to NATO partners. Reaching the inflection point, the U.S. needs its partners. Accountability for closed-loop debate is in order. The west must dispense with the self-sabotaging “anti-Turkism” of its media, along with the sneering attitude from its media over post-Soviet nations. These are the neighbors of Afghanistan, like it or not. These neighbors will be those who must address the ground reality of a power vacuum in the region. America could influence a process that engages leaders for civil liberty and human rights. It could, if it would engage with neighbors and Afghans alike through diplomacy and communication. This duty falls to institutions of diplomacy. Lawmakers and communications. They are those who must correct their engagement of the region if they wish to see a different outcome in it.

It is sensible for the west to engage the nations in whatever means is still viable. Some they can engage as partners, others they can engage in constructive discourse. The U.S. must engage all parties in a positive discourse, whenever possible, as the threat of domestic venom breeds foreign threats. It is as the adage reads. “One catches more flies with honey than vinegar.” The honey of positive dialogue surpasses the sour entitlement of western internalism. The world chokes on the gnats of western bipartisan hypocrisy. It sees this through its media, and its media acts as a wall blocking off the world from the true character of Americans, Americanism, or the voice of diplomacy the nation may bring to the table still.

At its official level, the U.S. sends mixed signals. Leaving Bagram at night appears as abandoning ship. It is made worse by the western criticism of it. Robert Charles, a member of the President George W. Bush administration, made comments to Fox News. Trump needed to secure an on-track peace accord, he argued. Charles states that the situation would be different then. Indeed, it would. It is not. Comments on hindsight policy are an issue in western discourse. Nothing can reverse the immediate effects of this choice except corrective choices.

The troops have withdrawn. They cannot simply go back. This is a course that cannot be reversed, but it may be corrected. 

A 20-year security effort is not a thing to abandon lightly. Troops may recede, but American mediation must not. Otherwise, American credibility is lost. 

The west has corrective measures to extend. It appears to sit on its hands regarding promises, and it appears to turn up its nose in terms of discourse. A forward-seeking policy comes from closing the collective mouth and getting off their hands. America, as the figurehead of modern western thought in the Afghan region, must engage the region in discussion. It must not alienate the allies that remain available to peace.

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