A graduation ceremony of al-Qaeda group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters at a camp in Syria’s northern Idlib province bordering Turkey.
Exactly a decade after the United States sought a pioneering role by Turkey for launching the regime change project in Syria, it has solicited help from Ankara in regard of another political transition in the Greater Middle East — in Afghanistan.
Analogies never hold one hundred percent in politics or diplomacy, but the similarities are striking.
If in Syria the project involved the overthrow of the established government of President Bashar al-Assad by force, in Afghanistan the agenda today is to somehow ease out the elected government led by President Ashraf Ghani and have it replaced by an interim government that includes the militant Islamist group known as the Taliban.
Both situations narrow down to co-opting jihadi groups who masquerade as “liberation movements”.
In Syria, Turkey provided not only the logistics for jihadi fighters from all over the world to enter that country to join the ISIS and al-Qaeda but also equipped them and supported them — even nursing injured fighters — to wage a protracted horrific war against Assad.
There is incontrovertible evidence that Turkey mentored the cadres of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
A dispatch by CNN from Turkey in November 2013 noted that “it is extraordinary to watch this volume of international traffic from countries where al Qaeda has a confirmed and consistent presence into a NATO member state… Many of these devout Muslims believe they are joining the final battle prophesied as happening in Syria — known as al-Sham — which will herald the end of the world. The recruits are ecstatic; they never thought this final fight would come in their lifetime.”
“We stood at the Turkish border and filmed a chilling sight: the flag of ISIS, flying calmly over a minaret a few hundred meters away in the Syrian town of Jarabulus – a sign that they control the town. Turkey now has to reconcile the seemingly relaxed traffic of jihadis into their south to travel into Syria — many of whose aim is to help establish an al Qaeda-friendly caliphate — with the fact they can now see al Qaeda from their border.