Sources site security concerns for Turkey’s decision to suspend diplomatic visa exemption for Afghanistan

Ankara has canceled visa exemptions for Afghan diplomatic passport holders due to the frequent and unnecessary travel of Taliban members under the guise of medical issues, according to sources familiar with the matter.

This decision marks a significant shift in Turkey’s diplomatic relations with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The Turkish government, citing security and political concerns, has suspended the 2008 agreement that allowed mutual visa exemptions for diplomatic passport holders. This move, authorized by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reflects Turkey’s growing unease with the Taliban’s activities and the broader implications for regional security.

Former Afghan diplomats view this suspension as a major setback in Afghanistan’s diplomatic relations with Turkey. The decree, effective June 1, was reported by Turkish media and highlights Turkey’s stricter stance towards Taliban-run Afghanistan.

Sources indicate that the Turkish government was troubled by the influx of Taliban members traveling to Turkey for alleged medical reasons, which raised security concerns. Ahmad Javid Ziarat Jahai, a former Afghan diplomat, commented on Turkey’s dual policy towards Afghanistan, suggesting that this decision is part of a broader strategy to exert more control over the situation in Afghanistan.

A Taliban spokesperson stated that they are addressing the issue through negotiations with the Turkish government. However, analysts believe that Turkey’s perception of the Taliban has shifted significantly. Sayed Jamal Khurshid, another former diplomat, noted that the Taliban’s diplomatic practices do not align with international norms, contributing to Turkey’s decision.

Turkey, which had established relatively good relations with the Taliban, including accepting Taliban diplomats for the Afghan consulate in Ankara and handing over the administration of the Afghan consulate in Istanbul, appears to be reassessing its stance. An informed source revealed that Turkey initially requested the retention of a diplomat from the previous Afghan government at the consulate in Ankara, a request that the Taliban denied.

Additionally, Turkish officials have repeatedly urged the Taliban to form an inclusive government and reopen educational institutions for girls and women, requests that remain unmet. The unilateral cancellation of the visa exemption agreement suggests a cooling of relations between Turkey and the Taliban, indicating Turkey’s frustration with the current diplomatic and political dynamics in Afghanistan.