Turkey confirmed that it will provide peacekeepers to guard Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. The Turkish contingent will provide security for the Afghan government and the main International Airport outside the capital. The U.S. intends to fully withdraw its forces by September 11, 2021. Turkey, and especially president Erdogan, wants something in return for maintaining a powerful stay-behind security force and keeping the airport open. The airport is a key hub for supplying Afghan government forces as well as the main escape route for foreigners, especially diplomats and aid workers. The Turks are more acceptable as a rearguard because their troops are Moslem and have a reputation of being tough and reliable. Nevertheless, the current peace agreement with the Taliban calls for all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan but only the Americans have set a date. Erdogan would like nothing more than the U.S. agreeing Turkey can keep its Russian S-400 missiles and air defense system but that may be asking too much. The U.S. contends the S-400 is a threat to NATO’s integrated air control and air defense system and will allow Russia to monitor NATO’s stealth aircraft (particularly F-35s). Money and material support is more likely and Turkey’s defense minister has asked for both. Turkey came away empty-handed from the recent NATO conference in Belgium. Turkey made some peace offerings but would not back away from its illegal actions against NATO member Greece as well as in Syria and Libya. Most NATO members no longer trust Turkey, or at least the Erdogan government. Many, if not most Turks agree with this assessment. This plays a part in the worsening Turkish economic situation.
June 14, 2021: At a NATO conference in Belgium the American and Turkish leaders met to discuss the many disputes that have arisen between the two countries and between Turkey and NATO. Several days before this meeting Turkey issued statements defining the Turkish view of the situation. Turkey believes that NATO is a central element in Turkish security and a key element in NATO security. This includes contributing troops or bases for many NATO missions. Turkey accuses NATO of not supporting Turkey’s battle with Syrian Kurdish separatists, especially the armed YPG (People’s Protection Units) forces in Syria. Turkey considers the YPG a component of the Turkish PKK (Turkish Kurdish separatists). The U.S disagrees with Turkey about YPG/PKK cooperation and has found the YPG an effective and reliable force in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).
June 13, 2021: Greece accuses a Turkish patrol boat of deliberately ramming and damaging a Greek patrol boat off the Turkish west coast (the Aegean Sea). This incident occurred when Greek and Turkish patrol boats encountered each other near the Greek island of Lesbos, which is only 5.4 kilometers from the Turkish coast and the maritime border is midway between the two nations. Even with GPS it is sometimes difficult to be sure exactly where the maritime border is, especially when Greek and Turkish patrol boats encounter each other. The Turks say the collision was minor and an accident. Greece and Turkey will discuss the matter at the NATO conference in Belgium.
June 12, 2021: Turkey is developing its offshore Black Sea natural gas fields as quickly as possible. Turkey recently revealed that the Black Sea Sakarya Gas Field (Amasra-1) had 135 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas. In 2020 there was another Sakarya Gas Field well, Tuna-1, with 405 bcm. The Sakarya Gas Field dramatically reduces Turkey’s dependence on imported natural gas and has the potential to turn Turkey into an energy exporter. If construction on extraction and pipelines proceed on schedule, by 2023 Turkey will be producing three to five bcm a year. By 2026 it could be producing 15 bcm per year. Turkey currently imports about 48 bcm of natural gas per year and only produces around 440 million cubic meters (.44 bcm). Imported natural gas costs Turkey over $40 billion a year and if all the current gas discovered is recovered, it would meet Turkish demand for twelve years. The prospect of this gas coming online puts Turkey in a better bargaining position for negotiating the price and delivery dates of gas imports from suppliers Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia.
June 11, 2021: Turkey believes recent airstrikes in northern Iraq killed Selman Bozkir, a senior Kurdistan PKK leader who had established himself in the Iraqi-run Makhmour refugee camp. The camp holds about 12,000 Kurdish refugees and is in northern Iraq about 180 kilometers south of the Turkey-Iraq border. The airstrikes apparently occurred on the 5th and/or 6th. These long-standing refugee camps eventually turn into towns with permanent structures, paved roads and still surrounded by a fence with access controlled, often only in theory, by security forces supplied by the host country. In the case of Makhmour that means Iraqi Kurds, who have been autonomous since the early 1990s and are still assisted by the Americans to remain autonomous. Refugee camps are often hideouts for all manner of outlaws who use money, muscle or ethnic connections to maintain the secrecy of their location inside the camp. The Turks believed they found the location of the building where Bozkir was living in the camp and killed him in the airstrike, which they claim killed only three people. It sounds like the Turks used one of their armed UAVs for this attack and to confirm the location and identity of the target. Turkey has, for years, been demanding that Makhmour be cleared of illegal occupants, especially PKK members. That is hard to do and the Turks know it because they have millions of Syrian Sunni Arab refugees in refugee camps. Although these Turkish camps are only five to nine years old, many have become home for Islamic terrorists and criminal gangs.
June 8, 2021: Turkey confirmed it has offered to protect and operate Kabul’s international airport after the withdrawal of U.S. and other NATO troops. Turkey and the U.S. have been and are currently discussing Turkey’s proposal.
June 3, 2021: Turkey’s annual inflation rate for May declined to 16.6%. In April the inflation rate was 17.1%. However, May is the seventh straight month of high inflation in Turkey.
May 31, 2021: Turkey announced the Russian S-400 missile experts currently monitoring Turkey’s S-400 air defense system will soon return to Russia. The presence of Russian technicians is one of the U.S.’s key objections to Turkey’s use of the system. The announcement made it clear that when the Russians leave Turkish forces will have complete control of the system.
Turkish security personnel seized the nephew of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen in what was described as an overseas operation. The cleric is currently living in exile in the U.S. The nephew, Selahaddin Gulen, is charged with belonging to a terrorist organization. It is believed the nephew was captured in Kenya. Turkey calls Fethullah Gulen’s organization FETO (Fethullahist Terror Organization). President Erdogan believes the organization was involved in the July 2015 attempted coup.
May 28, 2021: President Erdogan opened a new mosque in Istanbul’s Taksim Square today. Erdogan claimed he has wanted to build a mosque in Taksim Square since the 1990s.
May 25, 2021: Turkish security officials believe PKK militants used a commercial UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) to attack Diyarbakir’s airport. The attack occurred May 19 and damaged the airport’s main runway. Other sources reported Turkish forces had shot down a “model plane” on May 25 as it attempted to attack a Turkish base in northern Syria.
May 24, 2021: Poland has agreed to purchase 24 Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 tactical unmanned aircraft. The Poles are getting the armed export variant. The TB2, which is similar to early model Predator and similar Israeli UAVs, has established a solid record of use in several combat zones (Eastern Turkey, Syria, Libya, Armenia and northern Iraq).