Turkey to help secure Af-Pak border

Some groups, or rather some states, simply do not want the two neighbors, Pakistan and Afghanistan, to mend fences over their disagreements, and they are doing everything in their power to derail the rapprochement efforts between these two countries brokered by Turkey, a trusted ally of both countries. Turkish President Abdullah Gül clearly made a reference to these sinister efforts when he mentioned during a press briefing with the Afghan and Pakistani leaders that some want to sabotage these efforts undertaken by Turkey.

Just before the seventh Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral summit, held this week and packed with an ambitious agenda centering on providing a comprehensive platform for furthering high-level political dialogue, security cooperation and development partnerships among the three countries, there was an attempt on the life of Afghan spy chief Asadullah Khalid last Thursday. Thankfully, he survived the assassination attempt and is now recovering from the injuries he sustained.

Unfortunately, we saw the same deadly game played out last year before the sixth edition of the trilateral summit, held in November 2011. A well-respected figure in Afghan society, Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chairman of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, was assassinated. The communiqués issued following both summits reflected that both incidents targeted peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, in both cases, Turkey, by bringing both Pakistani and Afghan delegations led by the countries’ presidents, Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai, respectively, were able to overcome the deep mistrust between the two countries and helped both Afghanistan and Pakistan recover from a major blow to the peace and reconciliation efforts at national and bilateral levels between the two estranged neighbors. Turkey is possibly the only country that is perfectly positioned to mediate between the two as it has deep historical ties with both and enjoys strong credit in Kabul and Islamabad. There are no misgivings or trust issues with Turkey from the perspective of Karzai or Zardari.

I talked to Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin on Friday to get some background information on how things went at this week’s trilateral meeting, during which he also met with his Afghan counterpart, Ghulam Mujtaba Patang, and Pakistani Deputy Interior Minister Imtiaz Safdar Warriach on Wednesday. Şahin said they were able to leave those tragic incidents behind by not letting them overshadow the trilateral process. He said Pakistan is sincerely determined to get to the bottom of the attack on the Afghan spy chief by investigating any links that might point to the involvement of some groups operating in Pakistan. For its part, the Afghan delegation, he said, appreciated Pakistan’s openness on this issue.

Şahin explained that Turkey may help both Afghanistan and Pakistan provide security and surveillance along the long common border between the two countries that is the main crossing point for illicit and terrorist groups operating on both sides. “Though this will be very difficult because of the terrain and length of the Afghan-Pakistan border, I believe it is still possible. Our General Staff provided some proposals to both sides to work out some of the pertinent issues in securing the border,” he said.

The Turkish minister reaffirmed that Turkey takes the security of Afghanistan very seriously and is doing everything to prepare the Afghan national police to ensure a stable future in this country. He actually accompanied Karzai on Thursday on a visit to the Sivas Vocational Police Academy in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, where 500 Afghan police cadets are being trained. He said Karzai was very impressed and moved by the professionalism his fellow countrymen showed in this training center during the visit. The training is part of a project put forward by NATO in mid-2011 for the training of thousands of Afghan homeland security forces. Turkey made a financial contribution of $2.5 million, while NATO, Japan and the United States allocated $5 million in funding for the project.

The extensive training program, launched in July 2011, includes both theoretical and applied components, with the cadets receiving instruction in such areas as human rights, crime scene investigation, firearm use, building protection, close combat and security precautions against terrorist attacks. Şahin said that even though Turkish instructors use translators to communicate with the Afghan cadets, in time many have learned Turkish and started to understand all the commands without even needing translation. In total, Turkey plans to train 15,000 cadets.

It is interesting to note that Sivas, a city of 300,000 residents, is some 500 kilometers (approximately 300 miles) from Konya, where the 13th-century Muslim scholar Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi is buried. The fact that he was born in Afghanistan represents a strong bond Turkey has with Afghanistan. Rumi’s impressive mystic and welcoming philosophy was embraced by millions for centuries. Today, modern Turkey uses the same approach and that is why it enjoys huge credibility in the eyes of both Afghans and Pakistanis.

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