Book Review | Turkey’s Regional Approach in Afghanistan: A Civilian Power in Action

 By Urooba Ahmad
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Turkey’s Regional Approach in Afghanistan: A Civilian Power in Action by Prof. Dr. Şaban Kardas Department of International Relations TOBB University of Economics and Technology

The book Turkey’s regional approach in Afghanistan: a civilian power in action by Dr. Saban Kardas is a policy brief of Turkey’s wide range of regional approaches and a map out of a foreign policy that had been effectively carried off in the conflict-ridden region of Afghanistan in post-2001 years. The author, Dr. Saban Kardas is an Associate Professor of international relations in the Department of International Relations at TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Ankara, and also an advisor at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diplomacy Academy. His works are mainly centred around Turkish domestic and foreign policy, human rights, energy policies, and international security. The main objective of the book has been laid out in 9 chapters followed by the conclusion part. The book has tried to draw upon the comprehensive contribution Turkey made in Afghanistan by highlighting the immense efforts put forth for the reconstruction and peace-building process, for addressing the security situation in Afghanistan. It also provides an insight into Turkey’s holistic and distinct way of executing its diplomatic relations, so is reflected in its civilian power and political stabilization approaches in action within the disputed areas and how over the years it has developed and transformed its scope of policies by inculcating upon new strategies and cultures in its foreign policy.

The first chapter Turkey’s Regional Approach in Afghanistan: A Civilian Power in Action explains how Turkey’s involvement in Afghanistan alongside NATO has been showcased as an example of Turkey’s new addition and practical implementation of its security strategies at the global level. According to the author, Turkey has constantly made ethical use of non-military and soft power instruments to facilitate its relations with different countries and have strived to carve out their role along with other leading nation’s advancement projects as a regional peace broker or a mediator in conflict zones. The main point of this chapter is to elaborate on Turkey being progressively active and functional in different sectors in international affairs.

In the second chapter Traditional Parameters of Turkey’s Relations with Afghanistan, the author outlined such elements that necessitate the relationship between Turkey and Afghanistan and Turkey’s geopolitical interest in the region. Having no common boundaries with Afghanistan, the cultural, religious, and historical affinities entails Turkey to assist them at difficult times. Turk Afghan eternal friendship agreement of 1928 is one such example of how the historical ties began within the two countries that strengthen ties for further bilateral relations. This chapter focused on Turkey’s efforts to build trust among the Afghan people through its constant stand to support the country with the help of policies like non-interference and call for national reconciliation. The Central Asian region is of paramount importance to the world politics, in which Afghanistan is being entangled because of having common boundaries with the post-soviet countries and the presence of international powers in Afghanistan observes closely the development in the regions adjoining Afghanistan, as part of its regional policies it implies on Turkey to play a crucial role in the area.

The third chapter Turkey in Post-2001 Afghanistan deals with the first phase of Turkey’s mission in Afghanistan after 2001, as limited to providing logistical support likewise training and equipping of Afghan security personnel and collective contribution alongside International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with the United Nations authorization of peace operation and stabilization processes in Afghanistan, and it further explains how Turkey kept away from being involved in combat missions; utilizing civilian instruments to subsidize their efforts. Also, Turkey has acquired the crucial position in Afghanistan to perform different operations assigned at different levels by NATO; because of the regional correspondence, the local people would be agreeable to the international forces operating in its lands.

In the fourth chapter Socio-Economic Reconstruction: From Development Assistance to Afghan Ownership the author brings upon another aspect of participation that Turkey made in Afghanistan beyond the military instrumentIt concentrated on extensive issues for the development in fields such as education, medical, infrastructure, transportation, and administrative level; was followed by setting up of organizations, namely Provincial reconstruction team (PRT); Turkish international cooperation and coordination agency (TIKA). The author emphasized the term Afghan ownership as an important outlook for achieving secure and stable order in the country and it included people from all major forces in determining the future of the country.

The fifth and the sixth chapter explains how Turkey expanded its diplomatic efforts through different regional approaches to further deal with the unending Afghan conflict. The author claims that Turkey endeavored to unite the regional powers for collective actions and building solutions to address the security concerns in Afghanistan. Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral process, Istanbul process, and the adoption of various confidence-building measures were the initiatives led by Turkey that were largely applauded at the international level. The author justified Turkey’s regional approach as one of the successful foreign policies in contemporary times.

In the seventh chapter Main Themes Underpinning Turkey’s Regional Approach the author underlined those facts that drive Turkey’s assertive role in Afghanistan and the main themes behind it. He added that the main reason for Afghanistan’s instability and insecure environment holds in its complex geography in the South Asian region, where the regional player is competing for acting on its interest on the region’s lands. For that reason, according to the author, Turkey stressed upon regionalization of Afghanistan with keeping in mind the security concerns in the country may afflict neighbouring countries; the certainty of collective actions would stand up against the upcoming future challenges.

The eight-chapter Factors Behind Turkey’s Regional Approach praised Turkey’s notion of indivisibility, humanitarian policy, zero problems with neighbouring countries, multi-regional identity while preserving the bilateral, trilateral relations with the nations as one of the main arguments of this part and elaborates on Turkey as one of the rising powers through its assertive role in global politics.

In the ninth and the final chapter Afghanistan as an Item in Turkish-American Relations, the author discussed how Turkey diligently tried to sustain its relationship with its long-time traditional ally USA simultaneously, alongside balancing its interest in Afghanistan through coordinating Afghan policy with NATO and the USA. According to him, Turkey has an overlapping interest in several issues concerning the Middle East, Balkan, Caucasus, and Central Asia albeit the joint actions by the two countries and its refusal of military involvement and combat missions in the Muslim lands sometimes put them at odds. But contrary to this fact, the author seems to be gratified by Turkey’s involvement in Afghanistan has also been an opportunity to act in partnership with the West and demonstrate its increasing use of civilian powers and humanistic approach as a widely accepted policy that appeals the liberal thought as well.

The book aims to provide a reader with thoughtful literature on the effective utilization of Turkey’s civilian and non-military instruments as the solution to the Afghanistan conflict and reaching out to the ground level to address the situation from the grassroots. A range of international and regional involvement in the country should be seized as a chance of better policy implementation through regional participation and an inclusive approach. The author further mentioned that Turkey is yet to make some alterations in its policies given the changing pattern of global politics and the emerging issues around the world.