Turkey is an Imperialist State. Don’t Let Erdogan Pretend Otherwise. | Opinion

Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

After attending Eid prayers in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke about Afghanistan. “We have nothing against their beliefs,” the strongman said of the Taliban. He doubled down on the Taliban’s anti-American narrative: “Imperial powers entered Afghanistan; they have been there for over 20 years. We also stood by our Afghan brothers against all imperial powers.”

It’s good that Erdogan is finally acknowledging what any visitor to Afghanistan who got outside the bubble of the U.S. embassy or Bagram Air Base could see: Turkey may have formally been part of the same NATO mission, but it was on the opposite side of the battle. Billboards erected by the Turkish embassy in Kabul promoted Islamic solidarity rather than democracy.

Ross Wilson, the acting American ambassador in Kabul, previously served as ambassador to Turkey. His tenure in Ankara coincided with the State Department’s dismissal of the notion that Erdogan sought an Islamist order. Fifteen years ago, Wilson famously characterized Turkey’s liberal opposition as a “cacophony” unworthy of attention. Once again, he refuses to speak up when it matters.

Erdogan’s depiction of Turkey as a bastion of anti-imperialism is not new—though it is an increasingly common theme of Turkish propaganda. Consider Ankara’s justification of its deployment to Somalia. “The 16th century was the first time Turks entered Somali territory…to rescue Mogadishu from the Portuguese navy,” an article in Daily Sabah, a government mouthpiece, explained. “After three centuries, the Ottomans were in Somalia again to help the local people who were resisting a British invasion and suffering from a humanitarian crisis.” As for Turkey’s 2011 deployment? “This time it was to provide humanitarian aid when the Somali government made an international call for help to deal with drought and famine…. After the two peoples remembered each other, Turkey decided to take a permanent position in the country, which has vast resources and located very strategically [sic].”

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