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The Victims Of Erdogan's Ambitions Just Keep Piling Up

Will the Turkish President's discarded former allies ever dare to form a new party to challenge him?

Erdogan on a visit to Iran last month
Erdogan on a visit to Iran last month
Erdem Gul


ISTANBUL — Justice and Development Party (AKP) leaders never liked the way Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu became Turkey's prime minister two years ago, nor did they approve of his performance or professional style once he got the job. The only thing they actually appreciated was the way he left.

This much was clear during this past weekend's party congress in Istanbul that selected Binali Yıldırım, a longtime confidante of President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan, as Davutoglu's successor as prime minister. All present spoke plainly — from Council Chairman and Justice Minister Bekir BozdaÄŸ to the average representative — and all were in agreement: "The only leader of this party is ErdoÄŸan."

This is nothing new. After the 2011 elections, the current situation had already taken shape. ErtuÄŸrul Günay, who was a cabinet minister back then, summed it up well: "This party has 20 million voters and millions of registered members. During any activity or congress, the only slogan they chant is "Recep… Tayyip… ErdoÄŸan…" Whether the topic is justice, development, freedom or something else, they do not chant any other slogan. This bodes well for the establishment of a dictatorship."

He made these remarks years ago, well before DavutoÄŸlu's time. The party's position was firmly established, but DavutoÄŸlu's presence delayed its open declaration.

That's why DavutoÄŸlu received the send-off of a low-level bureaucrat rather than one befitting a prime minister. He wasn't the only one sent packing: the last founding members of the party to speak of "procedure" or "law" were excluded from the party's Central Executive board (MKYK), as were prominent founding members such as former president Abdullah Gül, Hüseyin Çelik and Bülent Arınç.

The increase in the number of ousted officials is directly tied to DavutoÄŸlu's own departure, as the party adopts a "love it or leave it" philosophy. Arınç and Celik had been voicing their objections and criticisms openly for awhile, while Gül had been sharing his uneasiness in more private circles.

What next?

Gül's distance from DavutoÄŸlu stemmed from the way ErdoÄŸan became president. DavutoÄŸlu was elected head of the AKP during another congress, before Gül's term was over, effectively preventing him from changing seats with Erdogan as the prime minister. However, the gap has closed, and Gül is now closer to DavutoÄŸlu than to ErdoÄŸan.

While those who have left the AKP haven't yet founded a new organization, it is widely believed they will do so, especially after this past party congress. DavutoÄŸlu insisted that he will continue his political career and mentioned ErdoÄŸan once in his speech, making no reference, however, to ErdoÄŸan's projected executive presidential system. Publicly stating that he believed his departure caused uneasiness among AKP voters and Turkish citizens in general is significant, but DavutoÄŸlu's most important observation was the following: "I stood before you for 20 months to serve the cause. Now, I will stand beside you, also to serve the cause."

AKP leaders were as displeased with these words as they were pleased with DavutoÄŸlu's departure.

Though the AKP has benefited from the victim image it projects — attacked by the "Old Turkey" that once imprisoned ErdoÄŸan for reading an Islamic poem — at the last minute, I heard a comment that could strengthen DavutoÄŸlu's position in the future: "Now, he too is a victim."

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Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen


HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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