Sustainable peace will not emerge in Afghanistan if the role of the states, which shared long cultural relations with the country or were engaged constructively in its issues, is disregarded. The strong regional states, neighboring countries, and global actors as well as western and eastern superpowers have role in establishing sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Three approaches, including positive, negative, and neutral, were adopted regarding the peace agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban. Neighboring countries had played various role in Afghanistan’s conflict within the past several decades – including direct interference or neutral approach. However, Turkey proved its role as a supporter and friend of Afghan people. As time for peace has neared, the experiences, abilities, and capabilities of Turkey should be used for peace process.
Turkey cherished both a strong friendly relations with Afghanistan and a prolonged experience in resolving Afghanistan’s issues leading it to sustainable peace. In addition to having long-lasting cultural and historical contacts with Turkey, Afghans view Turkey with respect for several reasons:
- According to Afghans, Turkey supported people during their jihad against the former Soviet Union.
- During the Taliban regime, Turkey sided with and supported Afghan nation.
- Turkey hosted Afghan migrants, who took refuge there during the war against the Soviet Union as well against the Taliban and there are still many Afghan refugees there.
- Afghans believe that as an Islamic country, Turkey is a successful model around the globe since it could maintained the balance between the government and religion with attention to religious issues.
- Turkey is the only Islamic country being a member of NATO and having hundreds of soldiers as ISAF group in Afghanistan and had the leadership of ISAF forces in Kabul and its surrounding areas for several years.
- Having its schools operating in Afghanistan for many years, Turkey has rendered cultural and educational services to all Afghans.
- Turkey contributed much to Afghanistan’s rehabilitation and cherished economic role with the country, which has been extended within the recent years.
- Turkey has friendly relations with Afghan neighboring countries as well as world powers. It treats Pakistan, Iran, and Russia on the basis of common interests.
Turkey was among the states which took serious practical steps regarding peace issue in Afghanistan. Since 2007, it sought to play its role constructively about peace process in the country and, therefore, organized tens of trilateral meetings – including Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – at different levels. It took the initiative to bring Afghanistan and Pakistan closer for peace and achieved valuable experience in this regard. Turkey is fully aware of the two sides’ demands and stances as well as the obstacles hampered Kabul and Islamabad to work in tandem for the fruition of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan believes that Pakistan supports and harbors the Taliban and exploits them against the country. The Kabul government holds this view that Taliban enjoy safe haven in Pakistan, which played a role in the Taliban’s reinforcement. On the contrary, Pakistan also continues the blame game and denies supporting the Taliban. It is undeniable that the Taliban and Pakistan do have relations as the Taliban leaders live there and many attacks against Afghanistan is organized in Taliban’s offices and centers in Pakistani soil.
Despite the current mechanism regarding the Afghan peace process used by the United States, Turkey held meetings with the heads of Afghanistan and Pakistan so as to pave the ground for sustainable peace in the country. However, the US placed Afghanistan in a weak position through holding direct talks with the Taliban group, granting legitimacy and signing peace agreement with it.
The mechanism adopted by Turkey as it conducts trilateral meetings, including Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, will, on the one hand, strengthen the country’s authority and, on the other hand, use Pakistan’s leverage on the Taliban for the fruition of the peace process. Afghan former and current presidents reiterated negotiations with Pakistan for the success of the peace process. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said nine years ago that peace negotiations should be directly held with Pakistan. Ghani also said during his first tenure that it is necessary to negotiate with Pakistan before reaching peace with the Taliban.
Pakistan also had role in the US-Taliban peace agreement, despite the marginalization of the Afghan government. Since the beginning of the talks between the US and the Taliban leadership, the Afghan government had no seat at the negotiating table and still feels its authority has been put under question.