International

Turkey to open new military base in Qatar in autumn

Turkey is expected to inaugurate a new military base in Qatar in autumn.

The Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported that the country had constructed a new facility adjacent to the Tariq Ibn Ziyad camp south of Doha, which was named the Qatar-Turkey Combined Joint Force Command in December 2017.

“The military base in Qatar is getting bigger. A new base has been built near the Tariq ibn Ziyad military base. The grand base’s, in which a myriad of social facilities exist, construction is completed,” the report said.

The number of Turkish soldiers in Qatar “will reach a drastic figure,” it added.

The report also noted that officials have been holding talks on a “grand opening” ceremony in autumn, with the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in attendance.

The first batch of Turkish troops arrived in Qatar in 2015.

Some reports say about 3,000 Turkish forces are stationed in the Tariq Bin Ziyad base, which has a capacity for up to 5,000 military personnel.

Turkey has been a major supporter of Doha since June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar.

The Saudi-led quartet presented Qatar with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum to comply with them or face consequences. Among the demands was that Qatar shut down the Turkish military base and halt military cooperation with Turkey.

Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and stressed that it would not abandon its independent foreign policy.

“All in all, the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, are uncomfortable with the Turkish-Qatari cooperation. In spite of all this, Turkey is trying to establish a durable security architecture and a military and political domain,”  the report said.

Turkey’s overseas military bases

Besides Qatar, Turkey has established military bases in Somalia and Sudan.

Dr. Micha’el Tanchum, a senior associate fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies (AIES), a fellow at the Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University in Israel and a non-resident fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Başkent University in Ankara (Başkent-SAM), recently wrote an overview of Turkey’s overseas naval installations. He aptly summed them up as “a string of pearls that directly challenges the power of Egypt-Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates alliance.”

“With the military entrenchment of Turkey in the Horn of Africa, the Turkey-Qatar versus Egypt-Saudi Arabia-UAE competition has created an incendiary fault-line that now encompasses the entire Eastern Mediterranean-Red Sea maritime corridor,” he wrote.

“Turkey's overseas naval and maritime installations are an essential part of Turkey's efforts to expand its soft power influence as well as its hard power projection,” Tanchum told Ahval.

He noted that the “size and naval capabilities of these various overseas facilities vary greatly.”

“While Turkey's naval assets are allocated to defend the core areas around Turkey's shores, Turkey has consistently worked to expand its blue-water power projection since 2003,” he said. “So, Turkey's presence overseas is more than token or symbolic.”

Tanchum concluded by noting that one of Turkey’s main concerns at present is expanding “the market for its quite successful arms industry.”

“Turkey is deepening its relationships with various nations through weapons sales,” he said.

“Some of these relationships may result in more overseas military facilities for Turkey.”

Turkey to deploy 60,000 soldiers in bases abroad, including in Qatar

 

60,000 armed Turkish soldiers will be deployed across four military bases abroad in accordance with a new 2022 plan, The New Khalij reported in January 2018.

 

The Turkish National Security Council finalized the plan last year, in  order to meet Turkey’s military and commercial interests to support its allies.

 

Turkey already has 3,000 troops deployed near the Red Sea, in Somalia and a military base in Sudan’s Suakin Island, which is capable of holding some 20,000 military personnel for five years. 

 

200 Turkish soldiers have been deployed in Somalia since October last year, training Somalia’s military.

 

In addition to some hundred soldiers currently based in Qatar’s Al-Udeid military base since shortly after the blockade on Qatar, Turkey plans to deploy more to fulfill its 2022 plan. The number has not publically been disclosed.

Turkey opens military base in Mogadishu in 2017

 

Turkey opened its biggest overseas military base in September 2017 in Somalia’s capital.

 

More than 10,000 Somali soldiers will be trained by Turkish officers at the base, a  senior Turkish official said ahead of a ceremony in Mogadishu attended by Turkish military chief of staff Hulusi Akar.

 

The opening of the $50 million base signals ever-closer ties between Turkey and Somalia.

Turkey’s relations with the Horn of Africa date back to the Ottoman Empire, but President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has become a close ally of the Somali government in recent years.

Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire noted that the military school was Turkey’s biggest overseas. The facility can train and house 1,000 soldiers at a time and also has sports courts and a running track.

Turkey’s vast aid effort at the height of the 2011 famine endeared it to many Somali people, and it has continued to pour in aid, much of it from private companies.

It has built schools, hospitals and infrastructure and provided scholarships for Somalis to study in Turkey.

 

Somalia’s government has also been a vocal backer of the Erdogan government in its bid to quash Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen’s influence abroad. The Somali cabinet immediately ordered schools and a hospital in Mogadishu linked to Gulen to be shut in the aftermath of last year’s failed coup, which Erdogan has repeatedly blamed on the cleric. Gulen denies involvement.

Turkish base in The Sudan

In December 2017, Ankara was given full-rights to rehabilitate the port island/town of Suakin in northeastern Sudan, with a naval dock for both civilian and military vessels on the west coast of the Red Sea. In addition to rebuilding the now abandoned inland ghost town of Suakin, the Turkish government will also resurrect the former Ottoman port as a historic transit point for pilgrims crossing the Red Sea to Makkah, given its proximity to the Saudi port city of Jeddah.

The controversial agreement was reached by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his Sudanese counterpart Omar Al Bashir during a summit in Khartoum earlier this week. Turkish state media said this would be part of a broader agreement between the two countries, worth $650 million. In addition to a military base, Ankara plans to build a new airport in Khartoum, and to invest in cotton production, electricity generation, and grain silos. Bashir and Erdogan promised to boost bilateral trade to reach $10 billion.

Turkish Foreign Ministry has denied reports that the transitional military council has cancelled Suakin Island redevelopment accord with Turkey. The transitional military council has taken over after President Omar Al Bashir was overthrown in a coup in April this year.

 

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@)gmail.com

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