The recent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has provided a unique opportunity for regional superpowers to leverage the unfolding political chaos.
Few analysts were surprised with the immediacy with which Turkey and Qatar acknowledged Afghanistan’s new Taliban regime. Indeed, both nations positioned themselves as a gateway between the West and the Taliban to capitalise on the chaos; playing host to US-Taliban conferences, and facilitating the evacuation of Westerners and humanitarian visa holders from Afghanistan.
The tumultuous change of government in Afghanistan provided the Turkish-Qatari alliance with a new opportunity to bolster their sphere of influence into central and southern Asia. Just last year, Jonathan Spyer in the Jerusalem Post hypothesised that Turkey was building its own Islamist global alliance alongside Pakistan, Qatar and Malaysia. Considering the Taliban’s longstanding relationship with the Pakistani government, the country is a natural fit in this alliance.
Already, the the burgeoning alliance has withstood extreme posturing from regional actors. In fact, in the face of a Gulf blockade on Qatar, Turkey came to the aid of their partner with military and humanitarian assistance in a stark rebuke to traditional Gulf unilateralism.
Although, this isn’t the first time the pair sought to flex their muscles in the region.
“Both Doha and Ankara supported the Arab Spring uprisings and the initial electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its resurgence elsewhere in the Arab world, especially in the Gulf kingdoms, led by Saudi Arabia,” Professor Amin Saikal wrote in ASPI’s The Strategist this week.
“Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose desire to be a central player in the Middle East and the Muslim world has caused Saudi Arabia and its allies to be wary, backed Qatar to overcome the difficulties and fear arising from the blockade. He beefed up Turkey’s military base in Qatar and provided it with whatever assistance it required, including facilitating its transactions with Europe and beyond.”