September 2, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9536

Turkish President Erdoğan: 'We Have No Hesitation At All In Getting The Second Shipment' Of S-400s; Central Asian Countries 'May Want To Join Together As Partners In The Positive Steps That The Taliban Will Take'

September 2, 2021
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 9536

On August 29, 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke to Turkish journalists about the second shipment to Turkey of the Russian S-400 air defense system, Turkey's relations with the Taliban and a possible Turkey-Taliban agreement on the joint management of Hamid Karzai International Airport, and a forthcoming new law to prevent what he calls "lying terrorism" by the opposition parties in Turkey.[1] Erdoğan spoke to the journalists on a flight returning from a diplomatic trip to the Balkans in which he visited Bosnia Herzegovina and North Macedonia. This report will review some of his statements.

"We Have No Hesitation At All In Getting The Second Shipment" Of S-400s

Following a June 11, 2021 meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and President Erdoğan on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Brussels, President Erdoğan said that he had told Biden: "As Turkey, do not expect us to change course, either on the F-35 or on the S-400, because we did our part for the F-35."[2] Following the same line, Erdoğan recently announced that Turkey would be getting a second shipment of S-400s from Russia, a decision that has been criticized by some in the opposition press.[3] In the August 29 meeting with journalists on his plane, he said of the S-400: "On the subject of Russia, we have no hesitation at all in getting the second shipment [of S-400s]. We have many steps [taken] with Russia, be it on the matter of the S-400 or concerning the defense industry."

"If [The Taliban] Take Care Of The Security, Then If Many People Are Killed There, How Are We Going To Explain This To The World?"

President Erdoğan also spoke to journalists about relations between his government and the Taliban as the group establishes its governance of Afghanistan. Among other Turkish military personnel in Afghanistan, there had been 600 Turkish soldiers stationed at the airport in Kabul.[4] Following Biden and Erdoğan's June meeting, the two leaders agreed on Turkey's role in securing the airport following the withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said after the meeting: "The clear commitment from the leaders was established that Turkey would play a lead role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport and we are now working through how to execute to get to that."[5] An article in the Turkish press reported that "those with news of the meeting" were saying that Erdoğan agreed to secure the airport in exchange for, among other things, U.S. recognition of Turkey's positions in Libya and Nagorno Karabagh, and U.S.-Turkey cooperation in Idlib.[6]

The prospect of Turkish troops remaining in Afghanistan after an American withdrawal provoked a brotherly yet uncompromising response from the Taliban, who have insisted that all foreign troops leave Afghanistan in accordance with the agreement signed in Doha in February 2020 and threatened military action against Turkish forces.[7] Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also said: "We want to see Turkey as Turkey, not as a part of NATO. Turkey is treating us like it treats the Syrian opposition. Whereas, at the least we want a relationship like [that of Turkey's relationship with] Libya. We want to meet with President Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan is a very distinguished leader for us and for the world of Islam. We want to share the realities of Afghanistan with him."[8] In the past week, there have been claims in the Turkish press that Turkey and the Taliban are close to an agreement over the joint management of the airport.[9] However on August 29, it was reported that the Taliban had said that "it is still early" for such an agreement.[10] On August 31, spokesman Mujahid said to Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu Ajansı: "We want Turkey's support to continue. To have good relations with Turkey is one of our goals. The people and government of Turkey are our friends. There are many reasons for this friendship to continue."[11]

It is in this context that President Erdoğan said to journalists on August 29: "What does the Taliban say about the airport issue? [they say]: 'We'll handle the security and you handle the operation [of the airport].' How can we let you handle the security? If you take care of the security, then if many people are killed there, how are we going to explain this to the world? This is not an easy task. We talked about such things, and then just the next day close to 200 people died." He was likely referring to the August 27 twin suicide bombing at the airport that killed over 100 people, including 13 U.S. service members.

"Azerbaijan, And Also Turkmenistan, And On The Other Side Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, And Tajikistan May Want To Join Together As Partners In The Positive Steps That The Taliban Will Take"

Answering another question about Afghanistan, Erdoğan said: "The Taliban's statements are moderate, but do its current statements overlap with its statements from 20 years ago? When considering this, naturally some hesitation is in order. We need to watch the process with precision. Look, at a moment when we did not expect it, close to 200 people died. There are Taliban members among the dead. According to the intelligence, it is entirely ISIS-K. We must follow the process carefully. We are going to see for certain what the Taliban's position is on forming and managing a state.

"For 20 years, whether it be infrastructure or superstructure, we gave Afghanistan every kind of support. But, for example, in the north of Afghanistan, the Taliban caused very serious damage. [Military commander and former First Vice President of Afghanistan Abdul Rashid] Dostum, who is himself a Turk, was forced to leave Afghanistan because he was under threat. These are thought-provoking. We need to know what will happen tomorrow. In the same way, the countries that are neighbors to Afghanistan, above all Azerbaijan, and also Turkmenistan, and on the other side Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan may want to join together as partners in the positive steps that the Taliban will take."

"Right Now Our Intelligence [Service] Is In Talks With The Taliban"

"We also will want to help on this point. The Republic of Turkey has a clear accumulation, a clear infrastructure. We want to help with this accumulation and infrastructure. But in order to help, the doors have to be open. For this reason right now our intelligence [service] is in talks with the Taliban. Aside from this, some countries in the south are coming together for talks. Beyond that, now Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai are coming together there. The signals they give are also very, very important for us. As Turkey, our concern is this: Afghanistan should be be back on its feet quickly."

Concerning Turkey's domestic opposition and what he calls "lying terrorism" in the media in Turkey, Erdoğan said: "The opposition parties, above all the CHP and Mr. Kemal [Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the CHP] are very thirsty for such lies. They work like lie factories. Digital terrorism is also continuously at work. We have made laws against this, but it is unavoidable that we will take much stronger steps. We are decisive in battling lying terrorism. Our colleagues are doing technical work for a new law that will keep Turkish data in Turkey, that will protect our citizens' personal rights and data, and that will stand against campaigns of defamation, discrediting, lies, and slander, be it in traditional or in new communications media. It will be prepared as soon as possible, and as soon as parliament opens it will be brought to the agenda."


[1], August 29, 2021.

[2], June 17, 2021.

[3], September 1, 2021.

[4], August 27, 2021.

[5], June 17, 2021.

[6], June 16, 2021.

[9], August 28, 2021.

[10], August 29, 2021.

[11], August 31, 2021.

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