afghanistan: western defeat, prospect of turkey and hungary starting a new war with the taliban

The Taliban offensive.
Colonel Cassad, Jun 22 2021

The Afghan army and security forces continue to collapse. Over the past day, the Taliban captured several more districts of the country, a number of military bases, a lot of trophies, hundreds of prisoners. Some of the militia and police simply go home, leaving their weapons and property to the Taliban, without even offering symbolic resistance. Local militias and police forces were particularly affected by the corruption. The Government clearly lacks combat-ready troops with adequate morale. The backbone of the resistance of government forces remains the special forces and army units that were trained and trained by the Americans.
Below in the video, a mass delivery of weapons and equipment to the Taliban.

Turkish, Iranian And Afghan Foreign Ministers Discuss Taliban Issue
South Front, Jun 22 2021

A trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan was held in Antalya, Turkey on Jun 20. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted:

Started last day of Antalya Diplomacy Forum with a trilateral meeting with Javad Zarif and Haneef Atmar.

Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar described the meeting as “first & very successful.” In a tweet, he termed it a “crucial mechanism” to coordinate combined efforts for peace, security, counter-terrorism, and economic cooperation. The three-day Antalya Diplomacy Forum brought together political leaders, diplomats, opinion makers, and academics. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the operation and security of Afghanistan’s Kabul airport are vital not only to the country but also to the survival of all diplomatic missions, including Turkey’s. Attending the Antalya meeting, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said he supports Turkey’s offer to provide security to Kabul’s airport. he said:

We welcome it, and we will support it. We believe that this will be essential for the continuation of Turkish and NATO, as well as the international community’s support to Afghanistan.

Earlier, Erdogan said Hungarian and Pakistan forces would assist Turkey in providing security to the Kabul airport. The Taliban has said it opposes any foreign forces remaining in Afghanistan, but Ankara believes it can overcome such opposition. While the Turkish military is part of US-led NATO operations in Afghanistan, it has avoided armed confrontations. Turkish officials are in talks with Washington for financial and logistical support. With Turkey’s relations with its many of its Western allies strained and in need of repair, the country’s airport initiative could provide crucial common ground, says Huseyin Bagci, head of the Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara. he said:

It’s very risky, but nothing can be better for American-Turkish relations to put Turkish troops in Kabul airport. The key problem is Taliban, but they can make a deal.

The War On Afghanistan Is Lost But The US Still Tries To Keep A Foot In Its Door
Moon of Alabama, Jun 21 2021

The Afghan government forces the US had trained are quickly losing the fight against the Taliban. The US has promised a complete retreat from Afghanistan. But it has now a plan to keep a foot in the door by staying in control of Kabul’s international airport. That plan is likely to fail. When the Soviet troops left Afghanistan, the government forces they had supported held out for three more years. Then the Soviets cut off all aid, while the US continued to support the various Pashtun warlords and Mujahedin. Without Soviet resupply, the government forces had to give up. Now the US occupation forces are leaving the country. But the government and the forces they are leaving behind are much less prepared to survive than the ones the Soviets had backed. The speed at which the Taliban are now taking over leads me to assume that it will take only a few months until the Afghan government forces collapse completely.

Afghanistan has about 400 districts. The Taliban already controlled for some time more than 50% of the countryside but had usually refrained from taking the district centers. That has now changed. Between May 1 and Jun 14 this year the Taliban took control of 34 districts in Afghanistan. During the last week they added a dozen more, 4 of those on Sunday alone. Remarkably, a lot of the districts the Taliban took were not in primarily Pashtun regions, but in the north where the population is often Uzbek, Tajik or from other ethnic minorities. Before the US invasion those populations were often anti-Taliban.

The tactics the Taliban are using show little variation. They first attack checkpoints and small strongholds around the district center, then besiege the main strongholds of the government military and police. Tribal elders are then sent in to communicate Taliban requests to surrender. The Taliban promise not to harm anyone who does so. They are only asking the soldiers to disarm and to register their names with them. They provide them with enough money to travel back home. The government is no longer able to resupply and reinforce besieged positions. Its meager airforce lacks the helicopters to do so. The few old Soviet-made Mi-19s are still flying. The Afghans can maintain those mostly themselves. Years ago Afghanistan wanted to buy more of these from Russia. But the US Congress intervened. The weapons lobby demanded that the Afghan airforce should buy and fly US-made aircraft. UH 60 Blackhawk helicopters and other US-made aircraft were delivered. These were less capable and more complicated and expensive than the Russian stuff. The Afghans had no capabilities to maintain them. US contractors were hired to do that. But now those contractors are leaving, together with the US troops. The Blackhawks get grounded one by one and soon none will be none left to fly.

With no chance of getting relieved, the holdouts in the various district centers now tend to give up instead of fighting to the end. Each day hundreds of soldiers surrender and are welcome by the Taliban. They leave behind an enormous amount of weapons, trucks and ammunition for the Taliban to use in their next operations. Attempts by the government forces to regain control of Taliban-held districts have failed. Last week a US-trained commando unit of some 50 soldiers tried to recover the Dawlat Abad district center in Faryab Province. The plan was for some 50 commandos to go in first, with some 170 soldiers and police ready to follow them. Air support was supposed to be available. The commandos went in, got cut off, and within an hour half of them were dead. Those who were supposed to follow and support them had feared an ambush and had never left their bases. The promised air support never arrived.

The Afghan army is demoralized and does not have the support it needs to hold its positions. It will soon fall apart. China has recognized this and it urges its citizens to leave the country. A week ago, Erdogan floated the idea that Turkish troops could be used to ‘secure’ the international airport of Kabul. The idea seemed to have originated in Washington DC. After Erdogan’s announcement, the Taliban immediately rejected it:

Turkey should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan under the 2020 deal for the pullout of US forces, a Taliban spokesman said on Thursday, effectively rejecting Ankara’s proposal to guard and run Kabul’s airport after US-led NATO forces depart. The development raises serious questions for the US, other countries and international organizations with missions in Kabul about how to securely evacuate their personnel from landlocked Afghanistan should fighting threaten the capital. Asked in a text message whether the Taliban rejected Turkey’s proposal to keep forces in Kabul to guard and run the international airport after other foreign troops leave, the Taliban spokesman in Doha responded that they should go as well.

During the last week, President Biden visited NATO and had a meeting with Erdogan. He gave the plan a go:

Biden agreed to Erdogan’s requests to support Ankara’s forces as they retain control of Kabul International Airport after American and NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan this summer, a senior US official said Thursday. National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on a briefing call today that during their meeting in Brussels on Monday: “President Biden committed that that support would be forthcoming. President Erdogan expressed satisfaction with that, and the two of them tasked their teams just to work out the final details.” US officials “are putting together a detailed and effective security plan” to assist the Turkish security plan, which Western officials see as vital to protecting diplomatic missions to the Afghan government as the Taliban makes gains in various parts of the country.

One does not protect diplomatic missions by holding the main airport of a foreign country. There must be other reasons why this was put on the table. The CIA has tried to get drone bases in countries neighboring Afghanistan to continue its drug-smuggling business fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Negotiations were held with Pakistan, but Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan publicly rejected the plan:

In an interview with Axios HBO, Imran Khan categorically stated that he would not allow the US to use Pakistan as a base for its Afghan operations. Khan told the interviewer, Jonathan Swan, that he would “absolutely not” allow the US to have the CIA in Pakistan to conduct cross border counter-terrorism missions against al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group, and the Taliban. Pakistan’s cooperation is seen as critical to Biden’s plans to completely withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by September. Khan has always been opposed to the US using Pakistan as a base from which to launch operations, and his comments follow similar remarks made by Pakistani government officials. This stance won a lot of praise in Pakistan with the term #AbsolutelyNot trending in the country.

Pakistan was under pressure to accept a CIA base as it is in need of a loan from the IMF, which the US controls. China though does not want more CIA meddling in or around Afghanistan. Last year the US took the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) off its terrorist list. China fears that the CIA will stir up trouble in Xinjiang by training and equipping radical Uyghur ETIM forces in or near Afghanistan. It now seems to have provided Pakistan with sufficient support to avoid further US pressure.

With no other country around Afghanistan willing to support the CIA it needed to find a way to stay in Afghanistan. Turkish control of the airport of Kabul would allow it to keep drones within the country and to stay in contact with its networks on the ground. A country that has its main international airport controlled by foreign forces is not sovereign. Such a position can thus only be temporary. When the Taliban take Kabul, and there is little that lets me believe that they will have trouble to do so, the airport will come under fire. The Taliban have by now captured enough long-range artillery to put it under siege and to bomb it to smithereens. US air support for the Turkish forces would have to come from the wider Middle East and would have to cross through Pakistani airspace. A long-term defense of the airport is therefore not possible. So what is the real plan behind the attempt to keep a US or NATO foot in the door of Afghanistan? Would the US or NATO consider an attack on Turkish and possibly Hungarian forces at the airport in Kabul as a trigger to eventually re-invade the country? Does that make any sense?

I don’t think so, but here’s an effort to interpret it:

Why Turkey wants to partner with Hungary to protect Kabul airport
Ragip Soylu, Levent Kemal, Middle East Eye, Jun 21 2021

Orban and Erdogan meet on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels, Jun 13 2021

Erdogan last week publicly floated the idea that Ankara could partner with Hungary and Pakistan to secure Kabul International Airport after NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The airport is key to the stability of the Afghan capital, as foreign missions, NGOs and aid groups rely on its services. For many, Pakistan sounded like a reasonable partner. Islamabad has a long-standing relationship with the Taliban, as a neighbouring country. But Hungary came as a big surprise. Two sources familiar with the issue said Hungary itself expressed a willingness to take part in the mission, floating the idea in a meeting between Erdogan and Orban on the sidelines of a NATO summit earlier this month. One person familiar with the meeting told Middle East Eye:

Orban proposed to deploy Hungarian soldiers to the airport in a Turkish-led mission. Orban would like to show the alliance that Hungary is an important partner that can deliver results.

Orban has increasingly been criticised by EU and NATO countries over his authoritarian policies, which sources said had spurred him to move closer to Turkey. The second source said:

He is increasingly feeling sidelined. His future after the elections next year is also at stake.

Turkish officials, on the other hand, believe Hungary could be a good addition to the mission from a technical point of view. Officials in Ankara point out that Hungary already has experience securing Kabul airport from its participation in the mission between 2010 and 2013. Since then it has undertaken occasional other missions at the facility, too. One Turkish official told MEE:

Hungary is a logical choice because they are well aware of the security weaknesses of the airport. They know the terrain well. There are also longstanding defence ties between Turkey and Hungary, making it easier for us to work with them.

A spox for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry avoided responding to direct questions on Hungary’s possible role in the protection of Kabul airport. However, the spox tied the issue to the security of Europe and migration. The spox told MEE:

The most serious of these is the risk of further waves of migration, due to the rise of terrorism. The threat of terrorism and the emergence of migratory waves has to be prevented.

The spox said necessary steps are currently being negotiated, but no decision has been taken. Hungary, which has previously had around 150 troops deployed in Afghanistan, currently has only nine soldiers in the country, according to a statement by the country’s foreign minister in April. Orban is known for his anti-refugee stance, specifically towards those from Muslim countries. Hungary last year increased its military budget by 30% to €2.2b to purchase helicopters, battle tanks and missile defence systems. Orban also announced a military modernisation campaign worth billions of euros to be pursued over the next decade. No formal deal has been reached by Ankara and NATO over Turkey taking responsibility for Kabul airport’s security. However remarks by both Erdogan and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan indicated that the two countries were close to striking an agreement. Sullivan said last week during a briefing :

President Erdogan indicated he would need, as you said, certain forms of support to do that. And President Biden committed that that support would be forthcoming. President Erdogan expressed satisfaction with that, and the two of them tasked their teams just to work out the final details.

A NATO communique promised to maintain the funding for the airport earlier this month, meeting a Turkish condition, but Ankara is also seeking logistical support, such as the deployment of drones, defensive equipment and troops from other allied countries. A Washington source told MEE that Erdogan had been hoping for favours from the US in return for taking on the Kabul mission. The source said:

It is true that Turkey always had a historic and friendly relationship with Afghanistan. Yet in return, Ankara wants solid concessions from Washington, including on the issue of S-400s.

Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile systems has caused consternation in Washington, and prompted sanctions on Ankara. The Taliban, however, warned Turkey in several statements last week to leave with other foreign NATO troops, warning Erdogan not to make a “big mistake.” Sullivan said the Taliban’s threats shouldn’t deter Turkey from efforts to provide security for Kabul airport. He said:

We do not believe that what the Taliban has said publicly should or will deter the efforts underway right now to establish that security presence, which in turn will enable international missions and diplomatic missions to operate.

US military delegation to visit Turkey to discuss Kabul airport
Ragip Soylu, Middle East Eye, Jun 22 2021

A US military delegation will visit Ankara later this week to hold detailed consultations on a possible Turkish role to guard Kabul International Airport after the NATO withdrawal, a senior Turkish defence official said on Monday. The US delegation will be in Ankara on Wednesday or Thursday, the official added. He said:

It isn’t very clear who will join this mission. We have to wait and see to understand who is genuinely interested. There are some who aren’t in Afghanistan that would like to take part, or there are others who are there but would like to stay after the withdrawal. We will have a better picture in four or five days.

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