As America's presence in Afghanistan draws to a close and the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it's worthwhile to consider the countries that sponsor global terrorism and Washington's response to them. One country stands out: Turkey.
NATO is purportedly a bulwark against attacks on Western civilization. Yet NATO member Turkey has long supported ISIS and numerous other anti-Western terrorist organizations. It has been arming terrorists and sending them into countries such as Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan.
For example, in 2020, Turkey transported terrorist mercenaries into Azerbaijan, forces that were later deployed against Armenian-populated Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh. Such mercenaries included former ISIS commander Sayf Balud and war criminals such as Fehim İsa of the Sultan Murad Brigade. One hundred bipartisan members of Congress and the European Union Parliament have condemned Turkey and Azerbaijan on that score.
In contrast, the State Department has said little and done nothing about those two countries' blatant use of terrorist thugs. Does Washington still have a global war on terrorism? The United States is concerned that ISIS-K (an ISIS affiliate) and Al-Qaeda will remain in Afghanistan after America departs and that they will become a threat to America.
Hence, Turkey's support for ISIS and other terrorists is relevant to the Afghan debacle. Moreover, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan just admitted that he's comfortable talking to the Taliban "since Turkey has nothing against the Taliban's beliefs." The State Department has apparently not reacted to this stunning confession — a disturbing turn of events.
Turkey's counterterrorism chief from 2010–2013, Ahmet S. Yayla, has conceded that "Turkey was a central hub for ... over 50,000 ISIS foreign fighters and the main source of ISIS logistical materials [including] IEDs, making Turkey and ISIS practically allies." This makes NATO itself look like an ISIS supporter.
Two studies — "ISIS-Turkey Links" (2014) and "Turkey-ISIS Oil Trade" (2015/2016) — by veteran State Department adviser Dr. David L. Phillips, who now heads Columbia University's Peace-Building and Human Rights Program, exposed Turkey's alliance with ISIS.
In 2014, then–vice president Joe Biden told a Harvard audience that Turkey and others had been giving "hundreds of millions of dollars [and] tons of weapons" to Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda and ISIS. President Obama quickly papered over Turkey's guilt by forcing Biden to apologize to Erdoğan. Again, what happened to the global war on terrorism?
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This year, in his exposé Turkey: A State Sponsor of Terrorism? David Phillips noted that if a "non-NATO country behaved like Turkey, it would warrant designation as a state sponsor of terrorism."
In January and July, the U.S. Treasury Department fingered Turkey as a financial base for ISIS and Al-Qaeda. America hasn't penalized Turkey itself, however, but rather merely some Turkish individuals and companies. No wonder Washington's efforts — assuming they're sincere, which is questionable — have been largely ineffective.
Turkey's longtime backing of terrorist groups raises fundamental questions about U.S. policy, namely:
We must sadly conclude that the global war on terrorism has become a criminal fraud perpetrated on the American people, both civilians and soldiers, by persons whose names we can only guess.
As the United States departs Afghanistan, one wonders whether the blood and treasure spent there were in vain or part of something larger and more sinister.