Turkey has recently hosted and led several military exercises with the word Anatolian (Anadolu) as part of their code names, but two in particular, occurring simultaneously, warrant close examination.
They are Anatolian 21 and Anatolian Eagle 2021: the first a special operations exercise and the second an air combat one.
Anatolian 21 is led by Turkish special forces, and what is most significant about it is the list of participants. Nations fully participating are Albania, Azerbaijan, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan and as observers Kosovo and Mongolia.
If one desired to see a concise exemplification of the Turkish government’s geopolitical ambitions, especially as a reflection of Ankara’s three-pronged strategy of neo-Ottomanism, pan-Turkism and pan-Islamism, the above roster couldn’t be more illustrative.
The nine countries define a geographical arc stretching over 4,000 miles, from the Adriatic Sea to the Chinese border (at two points).
All the nine are NATO members and partners if Kosovo, the world’s first NATO state as Serbia’s prime minister deemed it in 2008, is included. Four are Turkic states. Albania and Kosovo were former Ottoman territories. Turkey has announced that the first-ever sale of its Vuran (Striker) armored combat vehicle is to Kosovo. All except Mongolia are majority Muslim. Turkey has recently been identified by a Mongolian official as its strategic partner under the framework of NATO. Turkey is NATO’s second-largest member state; Pakistan is its largest partner and the only one with nuclear weapons.
In January NATO transferred command of its Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, part of the NATO Response Force, to Turkey. Albania is one of the alliance members currently assigned to it.
The Turkish defense minister, Hulusi Akar, has paid recent visits to Libya, Iraq (where his unauthorized tour of a military base in the north created a furor), Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Ankara has now assumed the mantle of NATO’s second regional and aspiring global power, leaving Britain, France and Germany behind it.
Four of the nations participating in Anatolian 21 are also taking part in Anatolian Eagle 2021: Turkey, Pakistan, Qatar and Azerbaijan. Turkey recently reached an agreement with Qatar to host 36 of its warplanes and 250 of its military personnel for joint training exercises.
The Turkish Defense Ministry announced that “Brotherly nation Azerbaijan participated in the Anatolian Eagle Training for the first time.”
Pakistan has now started gearing up to take on the Rafale aircraft of the Indian Air Force. Pakistan’s JF-17 fighter jets are fighting a ‘war’ with Rafale fighter jets in Turkey these days. Not only this, the Pakistan Air Force is also practicing war with MiG-29 fighter aircraft, which are the life of the Indian Air Force.
Brotherly Turkey and Azerbaijan, “one nation, two states,” signed a comprehensive pact known as the Shusha Declaration on June 15 which solidifies military integration of the two – now essentially one – powers/power. The declaration was issued the day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the NATO summit in Brussels where he was embraced by the other heads of state of the 30-nation military bloc. The air forces of Turkey and Azerbaijan jointly attacked Nagorno-Karabakh last year.
Also, on June 28 Turkey and Azerbaijan jointly launched the significantly-named Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – 2021 live-fire exercise with 40 tanks and other armored vehicles, 20 artillery pieces and mortars, 7 combat planes and helicopters and 3 unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
In Anatolian Eagle 2021 Qatar is supplying French-built Rafale multirole fighters and Azerbaijan Russian- built MiG-29 fighter jets and Su-25 attack aircraft.
No one is making a secret of the fact the aerial wargames are aimed against Greece, on Turkey’s behalf, and India, on Pakistan’s. For Azerbaijan, the targeted country is Armenia.
Qatar has only lately received the first Rafale 4.5-generation French jets and both Greece and India have recently purchased the planes as well. As Defense World reported a few weeks ago, “Pakistani and Turkish pilots will get an opportunity to size up Rafale fighter jets recently bought by India and Greece in this year’s international Anatolian Eagle-2021….”
The MiG-29 is India’s main combat aircraft and the Su-25 and Su-30 are Armenia’s.
Turkish F-16s and Pakistani JF-17 fighter jets are getting their first opportunity to train for combat with the bulwark of the Armenian and Indian air forces and Greece’s latest-generation acquisition.
The Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed that NATO is participating in the Turkish-Pakistani-Azerbaijani-Qatari air combat exercise, including by conducting a certification assessment of six F-16s, a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker and six Stinger air defense teams “committed to the NATO Response Force (NRF)” for the first time.
Pakistan, Turkish Pilots to Size up Rafale Jets in Turkish Exercise
The rapidly-evolving military partnership between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan should be a matter of the gravest concern for Armenia, Greece and India. Especially in regard to Nagorno-Karabakh, Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, and Kashmir, respectively. An Ankara-Baku-Islamabad axis would include, again, NATO’s second-largest member and largest partner state, the latter a nuclear power.
Turkey’s broader project of building a multinational military alliance under its control, and with NATO’s blessings, from Kosovo to Mongolia is no less alarming.