A year after an attempted coup – Turkey plays a key role in the war on terrorism
As Turkey leaves behind the anniversary of the attempted military coup on July 15 2016, the country breathes a sigh of relief. And considering the key role that Turkey has played in addressing the Syrian war, the refugee crisis, and violent extremism, the world should breathe a sigh of relief too.
Turkey is a vital player in the global fights against danger and disorder. And while its regional opponents may hope to diminish Turkey’s contribution, the truth remains. Turkey continues to lead most where the fight is hardest.
Take the Syrian refugee crisis. Turkey has taken in 2.75 million refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq. That’s 3.5% of its population. For comparison, that’s like the U.S. taking in the population of Ohio (source).
That includes about half a million school age children. The EU accepted less than 400,000 refugees total. And that’s down from a million refugees the year or so before.
In the face of global crisis, Turkey is leading the way forward. Little surprise, the International Crisis Group reported Turkey’s acceptance of refugees should be “a source of national pride.” Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch noted last year that “the EU as a whole failed to show leadership and solidarity in the face of the” same crisis.
Turkey isn’t just supporting refugees. It’s simultaneously contributing to the offensive against ISIS. And without its fight on both fronts, international counter-terrorism efforts will likely collapse. Not all are so equally contributing. The same actors who’ve funded and supplied armed groups in Syria, Libya and Yemen now criticize Turkey for trying to halt domestic militant groups. It’s worse than hypocritical. It’s laughable..
The PKK, a designated terrorist group by both the US and EU, is connected to militias that have been using the chaos at the Syria-Turkey border to undermine Turkish national security. That Turkey is responding to this threat against its own people is not detrimental to the fight against international terrorism. It’s precisely the opposite.
In the global fight against terrorism, financing and arming groups designated as terrorist entities defies logic. Just as the West, led by the US, is pursuing a counter-terrorism campaign against those who pose a clear threat to its security, Turkey is doing the same by cracking down on militant groups and nefarious organizations like FETO (who the Turkish government has designated as a terrorist entity accused of being behind the failed 2016 military coup) that are operating against its interests.
Turkey has taken significant steps to prevent the financing of terrorist groups and has participated in expert meetings on the prevention of violent extremism at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Additionally, Turkey has denied entry to some 10,000 people from 91 countries and detained and deported thousands more seeking to join terrorist groups in Syria. And on the battlefield, Turkish air bases at Incirlik and Diyarbakir along with contributions from the Turkish military forces have been central to the fight against ISIS in Syria.
Last year’s failed July 15 coup could have been a disaster. Not just for Turkey, but for the region and the world. With its extensive track record containing violent extremism and addressing the ever-growing refugee crisis, Turkey has proven itself a crucial global partner. Last year’s attempted coup hasn’t dampened the country’s resolve to stabilize the region either. In fact, Turkey’s is more committed than ever to help address today’s most pressing security issues. For that, the West and the global order should breathe a sigh of relief.