Turkey posed to promote Afghan security despite tensions with U.S.

Kids on a tank in Kabul. Turkey pledges support of Kabul’s post-U.S. militarization future. 

Rachel Brooks 

Commentary 

June 15, 2021 

Note: This is a work of commentary and may include opinions, which are attributed to the author. 

Note on Politically Sensitive Subject Matter: This article mentions two varying national accounts of the Armenian Genocide as well as accounts of the South Caucasus massacres of Azerbaijanis,other ethnic Turks, and Mountain Jews during the late 19th and early 20th century. These accounts are not mentioned to sway opinion on historical events but are added, when relevant, in reference to their politicization. Further personal research and discretion is advised when reviewing this sensitive subject era of history. 

The United States, along with several other NATO member states, are finalizing the process of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. As the withdrawal is made, it will rely on its allies in the region to maintain stability in the region. The pro-Turkish government outlet Daily Sabah notes that the United States and NATO allies have been in a process of debating the Turkish roles for the future of Afghanistan’s stability, as well they debate what entity will run Kabul’s international airport. 

Turkey has offered to be the maintaining entity of the Kabul international airport, and has voiced willingness to maintain regional security, and, on June 15, The Military Times via the Associated Press reports that Turkey seeks U.S. support of this endeavor. Turkish President Erdogan was quoted on Monday stating that Turkey would need “ diplomatic, logistic, and financial assistance” to maintain its troops’ presence in Afghanistan. 

Turkey and the United States have seen a strained international relationship in the wake of recent geopolitical controversies. Turkish support for Azerbaijan’s stakes in the 2020 Karabakh conflict saw an outcry from left-leaning Americans and the Armenian lobby of the United States. 

Following up on old promises, the Biden administration’s decided to recognize the Armenian Genocide, which refers to the highly politicized events of Ottoman-era pogroms against ethnic Armenians spanning the late 19th and early 20th century. This recognition, due to the political background influencing the decision, added a great strain between Biden and Erdogan. 

To add context, the events of the Ottoman-era killings of Armenians have been highly politicized in the wake of the World Wars, the Soviet era, and the Karabakh war. This history has been a driving force of outcry between ethnically Turkish and ethnically Armenian regional citizens. Responding with anger that their historic massacres, such as the Khojaly Massacre by ASALA forces in 1992,  go unrecognized as genocidal acts, ethnic Turks cite additional accounts of the region’s history. This citation includes noting that the Ottoman massacre era also saw Armenian Dashnaks sound a revolt in Van, Turkey, see the Armenian Rebellion at Van by Utah University, and saw the Armenian Dashnak political pogroms against ethnic counterparts in the region including Azerbaijanis, Meskhetian Turks, and Mountain Jews. 

The ethnic politics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been major driving forces of continued ethnic and territorial conflict in the region. This bitter feud has seen a reflection in current affairs. 

The continued interracial politics between Armenians and ethnic Turks have been further exacerbated in the wake of the Second Karabakh War. Incidents such as a war trophy park erected by the Azerbaijani government, see this OC Media opinion for more, with wax figures and helmets of deceased Armenian troops sounded a public outcry, adding to international as well as the domestic complaints of Armenians,Azerbaijani citizens, and third-party nationals  against Azerbaijan’s government’s human rights issues. Human rights is a primary concern of the United States incumbent political cabinet, and human rights issues in Azerbaijan, as well as Turkey, add further strain to the U.S. relationship with the Turkish state and its nearest allies. 

The U.S. decision to recognize the political narrative of the ANCA regarding this complex history raised questions in Turkey and the Caucasus about American partiality toward Armenia and added a strain on the region’s preexisting geopolitical pressure. The talking points of the Armenian Question are now considered by some critics as exhausted diplomatic points, with Foreign Policy arguing that Yerevan should try a different approach in the potential rapprochement of Ankara. 

Armenia, meanwhile, is braced with the chaos of its snap elections, spurred by the politics of a war lost to Azerbaijan. During this election, Azerbaijan and Turkey are braced for the outcome, as Eurasia.net reports that the reelection of Pashinyan or the rise of his rival Robert Kocharyan holds unique political risks for Azerbaijan. 

Armenian critics of the election process, including Richard Giragosian, have called out the election process as “infused with toxicity” and called it a “race to the lowest common denominator.”  The issues with the Armenian election process are likely to prolong political tensions. 

Instability in Armenia, coupled with an unresolved ethnic feud between the Turkish, Azerbaijan, and Armenian diasporas, will not be conducive to any new methods of rapprochement in ground reality. 

Despite these tensions, Caspian News reported some cooperation has been underway as Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged detainees for landmine maps. Azerbaijan traded 15 Armenian nationals for a partial map of the landmines left behind by Armenian occupying forces in the Karabakh territory on Saturday. This act of diplomacy was, however, met with a negative statement by acting-Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who reportedly told TASS Russian News Agency that the landmine map given to the Azerbaijani authorities was only “a fraction” of the actual number of landmines left behind in the territory. 

As Armenia continues to languish in its domestic political crises, Turkey and Azerbaijan continue to strengthen their ties. The Independent UK commented on a diplomatic visit of Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to the liberated city of Shusha, Azerbaijan on June 15. 

The strain of the United States and Turkish diplomacy was further tested due to the United States’ support of the Jewish State of Israel. Turkish President Erdogan heavily opposed the Israeli-Hamas conflict and sounded an outcry against it, which earned him a harsh rebuke from the United States government for the antisemitism of his statements. 

Despite the issues between the two states, Erdogan expressed confidence that the tensions can be resolved after his first meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, wrote Reuters on June 14. Erdogan referred to his talks with Biden as “productive and sincere.” 

A continued mutual understanding between the United States and Turkey is expected to serve the purpose of promoting post-U.S. Afghanistan security. Yet, Biden will be challenged at home by his constituency in the liberal and progressive parties who heavily back human rights issue outcry, such as the ANCA’s polarized political narratives regarding Turkey and Azerbaijan, and the U.S. continued relationship with these states. The United States progressives are also among the heaviest critics of the human rights issues that have surfaced from reports within Azerbaijan and Turkey, among the most recent being the Sedat Pekker videos scandal, which was critique as “reported six years ago” by The Washington Postand the report of prisoner abuses and torture in Azerbaijani state prisons, as was reported by the Duzdanisaq program with Ismail Djalilov.