Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Turkey's Pakistanization

Ah yes - seems only yday, when tripping about with mom and a teen in the family way was seen...

"Remember when we talked about choices? Well, see that girl? She made BAD choices"

Not unlike the inexplicably strong on paper, weak in real life Ottomans.


Last week, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared that Turkey is ready “for any cooperation in the fight against terrorism.” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu argued that Islamic State militants pose a greater threat to Turkey and the Muslim world than to the West.

Turkey’s dilemma is far more grave than its leaders realize. Indeed, Turkey’s current situation resembles the early years of Pakistan’s sponsorship of the Taliban. The Islamic State is recruiting militants in Turkey. And failure to clean its own house now could lead Turkey down the path of “Pakistanization,” whereby a resident jihadist infrastructure causes Sunni extremism to ingrain itself deeply within the fabric of society.

Although Turkey now recognizes the threat — the Turkish government voted to authorize military force in Iraq and Syria on Thursday — it has yet to come to terms with its own responsibility for helping to create it.

Turkey claims that radical groups grew stronger because moderates seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria were not given adequate aid. But that is not the whole picture. As Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., the former American ambassador to Turkey, has pointed out, Ankara supported radical groups, including the Nusra Front. Indeed, during the early days of Syria’s civil war, jihadist groups funneled fighters and resources through Turkey into Syria.

Turkey’s intervention in the Syrian civil war parallels Pakistan’s support of the Taliban to affect the course of the Afghan civil war. But the jihadism abetted by Pakistan did not remain across the Afghan border. Turkey may now be witnessing the beginnings of a similar blowback.

The Turkish government’s decision to turn a blind eye to Islamic State activity within its borders has similarly led to the extremists’ increasing influence in certain areas of Turkey’s major cities. The recent and unprecedented arson attacks on Shiite mosques in Istanbul may indicate that Turkey is entering this second phase. Turkey is home to only a small Shiite community; but Turkey’s Alevis, a heterodox Muslim sect often regarded as heretical by Sunnis, constitute about 20 percent of Turkey’s population.

A campaign by Sunni extremists against the Alevi community could lead Turkey into a Pakistan-like vortex of sectarian violence and radicalization. The present government’s own politics of polarization, illustrated by Mr. Erdogan’s baiting of the opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu due to his Alevi background during Turkey’s recent presidential election campaign, may further inflame sectarian tensions. And Islamic State militants will not hesitate to exploit the Sunni-Alevi fault line in Turkish society.

Pakistan’s final and most dangerous stage of extremism occurred when the flow of militants and resources was reversed. As the Taliban conquered most of Afghanistan, it provided training camps and other logistical support to its allies, making it harder for Pakistan to control militant organizations inside its borders.

Turkey has not experienced this stage yet. But the Islamic State may find fertile recruiting ground among Turkey’s 1.3 million Syrian refugees. And Turkish citizens may be drawn into the orbit of militancy just as segments of Pakistan’s population have been.

If the Islamic State’s Turkish networks remain intact, Turkey runs the risk that homegrown militants will be empowered by the return of fighters from Islamic State territory in Syria and Iraq.

Pic - "Today Kobani, tomorrow the Ottomans"