The Return of the Taliban, the “New Afghanistan” and the “6+1 Platform”

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The “Afghan problem” quite simply is in a critical phase and stands in front of us as a great mystery. What makes the problem so critical is that a civil war that may arise in the country has the potential to turn into a regional intervention and war; especially with the Central Asian and South Asian extent.

This leads us directly to a regional power struggle-competition over Afghanistan, and frankly, the insolubility of the problem emerges mostly at this point. Because at the current situation, we are witnessing together a process in which cards are redistributed between the power centers in the region over Afghanistan. This issue also reveals the background of the US withdrawal decision to a large extent.

Therefore, although the loser of the “Third Big Game” seems to be the USA in terms of form for now, it is necessary to think a little more about how accurate it would be to call a “defeat”. We are facing a war situation that the winner is uncertain. Because there is no winner the player who has the power to say the last word. Without any doubt, Taliban includes among these players.

Although the Taliban says that we won, they have been struggling to balance the field-table since February 2020. Therefore, although the Taliban seem to dominate the Afghanistan area to a large extent, the limits of this dominance are also seen to be limited. Moreover, the military power of the Taliban is being used as a weapon against Taliban. It is as if the Taliban are trying to be worn out on the field and to be completely taken over or to be persuaded into a divided Afghanistan as a result of a devastating struggle. The biggest reason for the popularity of the civil war discourse is undoubtedly directly related to this target.

In this context, the fact that the propaganda that the Taliban’s power is destructive rather than constructive in the construction process of the “New Afghanistan” is kept on the agenda by some regional powers is obviously equivalent to the search for the dominant power in the “New Afghanistan” via the Taliban. In other words, while the milestones of the intervention in Afghanistan over the threat of the Taliban are being created, on the other hand, the effort to present themselves as the address of salvation to the Taliban and other groups has been increased.

The Taliban and other groups would normally be expected to be aware of this game and fiction. After all, they witnessed a Soviet invasion, a civil war that followed, and finally US intervention. To put it more concretely, the developments in the period from 1919 to 1979 and the post-Soviet occupation civil war process that continued until 2001 showed all Afghan people that: the disappearance of the Loya Jirga Spirit equivalents occupations, oppressions and chaos that brother slaughters brother.

As a matter of fact, in 2021, we see that nothing has changed in Afghanistan and there is no trace of peace, stability, prosperity and security promised to Afghanistan. In fact, the ground for a bloodier civil war has been built. Therefore, Taliban and all groups in Afghanistan lost a huge 20 years. We wouldn’t be wrong if we say that after the USSR invasion, more than 30 years is a lost period; I do not want to enter the lost years between 1919-1979 at all.

Therefore, the Afghan people must take lesson from these “Great Games”. Because this war is not their war and the winner of a possible civil war will not be Afghanistan. In this context, first of all, they need to understand that it is very hard to achieve real peace in Afghanistan unless they establish their own common will on the point of “New Afghanistan”, catch the “Spirit of 1979-1988” again and not fall into the post-1988 mistake once again. Because only the desire of the Afghan people can save Afghanistan. Otherwise, the Afghan people will continue to fight to get rid of British, Russian and American today, much bigger “liberators actors” tomorrow.

So, what should be done or what can be done at this point? How can Afghanistan avoid being a “failed state”?

In fact, the answer is hidden in the history of the region, especially in Afghanistan, and only one word is enough: “brotherhood”.

So how will this happen?

Let’s list the items:

  • First of all, we should not make the mistake of 20/30 years ago. It is not possible for any ethno-sectarian or ideological power to dominate the country alone and completely in Afghanistan. This situation must be accepted by all parties. At this point, a brotherhood agreement between the Taliban and other Afghan forces/groups is essential.
  • A tribal structuring, including the Taliban, that strengthens the center will accelerate the political solution.
  • Everything should not be expected from this organization for the Taliban to be included in the system. A new approach to the Taliban as part of the national-international system is inevitable. It should be provided not as a blessing of external dynamics, but by the agreement of internal dynamics among themselves. Otherwise, reconciliations built on different interest groups-power centers do not last long.
  • The Taliban are aware of the limitations of their own power. His approach to different ethnic groups in Afghanistan and his diplomacy with regional-international powers, especially the USA, show this position. Therefore, the Taliban seem to have realized this fact, even in a tactical sense.
  • It is significant for the integrity of the country that the Taliban take part in these negotiation processes with other groups in order to represent the whole of Afghanistan in the diplomacy carried out with foreign powers. If Taliban do that, it will break the game. For this, it is necessary to establish a joint diplomatic mission targeting the “New Afghanistan”.
  • In this process, it seems inevitable that the Taliban will take at least one country that they consider close to them. Otherwise, unity and solidarity, nation-state building and integration into the international system in Afghanistan will fail. Preferably, it is suggested that the Taliban act here with more than one state in this transition period.
  • The “New Afghanistan” project can also form the core of a regional integration process. The “New Afghanistan” thesis can be brought to the fore as the address of regional cooperation instead of regional competition.
  • In this context, the contribution of the regional states on an economic-political basis is of great importance. To put it more concretely, a regional transition fund should be established for the “New Afghanistan” and this country should be quickly included in regional cooperation formations and projects.
  • In this context, the “6+1 Platform”, consisting of Kazakhstan – Uzbekistan – Tajikistan – Turkmenistan – Pakistan – Iran – Turkey, can also be brought to the agenda as a group of guarantor countries in the “New Afghanistan” process.
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin EROL
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin EROL
Born in 1969, Dörtyol-Hatay, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol graduated from Boğaziçi University (BU), Department of Political Science and International Relations in 1993. After completing his master's degree at BU in 1995, Erol was accepted to the PhD program at BU in the same year. After completing his PhD at Ankara University in 2005, Erol became an associate professor in the field of “International Relations” in 2009 and a professor in 2014. Erol worked at the Eurasian Center for Strategic Studies (ASAM) between 2000 and 2006 and and served as the General Coordinator of ASAM for a period. In 2009, he served as also Founding Chairman and Board Member of the Institute for Strategic Thinking (SDE). He is also the Founding President of the Center for International Strategy and Security Studies (USGAM) and the President of the International Relations Institute of the New Türkiye Strategic Research Center (YTSAM). Prof. Erol has also served as the Director of Gazi University Strategic Research Center (GAZISAM). In 2007, Prof. Erol received the “Turkish World Service Award” from the Writers and Artists Foundation of the Turkic World (TÜRKSAV), and has received numerous awards for his academic work and his activities in the media. Some of them can be listed as follows: 2013 “Print Media of the Year Award” by the Association of Contemporary Democrats, 2015 “APM 10th Year Service Award”, “2015 Press-Intellectual of the Year Award” by the Writers' Union of Türkiye (YTB), “2016 Volunteer Ambassadors Media Honor Award” by the Anatolian Village Guards and Martyrs' Families, “2016 Türkiye Honor Award” by the Yoruk Turkmen Federations. Prof. Erol has 15 book studies. The names of some of them are as follows: “The United States of Turks from Dream to Reality”, “Türkiye-EU Relations: Foreign Policy and Internal Structure Problems”, “The New Great Game in Eurasia”, “The Search for Strategy in Turkish Foreign Policy”, “The Search for Security in Turkish Foreign Policy”, “The Republic of Türkiye-Russian Federation Relations”, “The Cold Organization of Hot Peace: The New NATO”, “Theoretical Approaches in Foreign Policy Analysis: The Case of Turkish Foreign Policy”, “Crises and Crisis Management: Actors and Case Studies”, “Kazakhstan” and “Current Issues in International Relations”. Since 2002, Prof. Erol, who has carried out radio programs such as “Eurasia Agenda”, “Strategic Perspective”, “Global Perspective”, “Analysis”, “File”, “News Desk”, “The Other Side of the Agenda” on TRT Türkiye's voice and TRT Radio 1 (Ankara Radio), made the programs “Arayış” on TRT INT television between 2004-2007, “Beyond the Border” on Kanal A television between 2007-2010 and “Foreign Policy Agenda” on BBN TÜRK television in 2020-2021. Prof. Erol, whose foreign policy column “Arayış” was published in Milli Gazete between 2012-2018, is consulted for his expertise in numerous national and international media outlets such as television, radio, newspapers, news websites and magazines. Prof. Erol, who also taught at Gazi University Department of International Relations and Ankara University Latin American Studies Center (LAMER) between 2006-2018, has been continuing his academic career as a faculty member at Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University Department of International Relations since 2018. Since 2006, Prof. Erol has also taught in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Ufuk University. The main areas of interest and expertise of Prof. Erol and the titles of his courses at the undergraduate, master's and doctoral levels in this area are as follows: “Geopolitics”, “Security”, “Intelligence”, “Crisis Management”, “Current Issues in International Relations”, “Turkish Foreign Policy”, “Russian Foreign Policy”, “US Foreign Policy” and “Central Asia and South Asia”. Prof. Erol, whose articles-evaluations have been published in many journals and newspapers, has been editor of academic journals such as “Eurasia File”, “Strategic Analysis”, “Strategic Thinking”, “Gazi Regional Studies”, “The Journal of SSPS”, “Black Sea Studies”. He is currently in the editorial boards of “Regional Studies,” “International Crisis and Political Research,” “Gazi Academic View”, “Ege University Turkish World Surveys”, “Ankara International Social Sciences”, “Democracy Platform”. Prof. Erol, who has been working as the Founding President of the Ankara Center for Crisis and Political Studies (ANKASAM) since 2016, is married and has three children.