New Delhi: The fiction of good and bad terrorists continues. The fictional “good” terrorists have driven Afghanistan to such ruin that rebuilding it as a democratic state looks almost impossible. The Pakistan establishment also promotes the fiction of “good” and “bad” terrorists. This flawed narrative has subjected Pakistan to waves of terrorist attacks since the past quarter century. The terrorism that Pakistan has unleashed on Afghanistan and India has boomeranged on it. It still persists with “good” terrorists. They will consume it one day in the near future.

Now Turkey is headed there. Its predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire, ceased being ranked among the Great Powers in the 19th Century when the Great Power game truly entered the Modern era. It lost the capacity to settle its problems itself, having to seek the support of one or the other Great Power to keep its interests intact. When Napoleon Bonaparte campaigned in Egypt, the English backed the Turks. In the Crimean War, Russia was opposed by an alliance of Turkey, England and France. The long supply lines, problems with horse cavalry and the large number of casualties to diseases killed the Russian campaign. Deficiencies in the allied prosecution of the war also came to light, especially in England.

In World War I, Turkey went with the Central Powers led by Germany and seconded by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When the Central Powers lost, the Ottoman Empire, already in severe decline, crumbled. Turkey was saved further ignominy by Kemal Ataturk, who made it a secular state with a secular army, and abolished the Caliphate. Under a modern secular regime, Turkey grew in strength, and benefitted as a NATO member. The present Islamic government of Turkey, however, has illusions of reclaiming some of the legacy and lands of the former Ottoman Empire. Turkey wants a piece of Syria peopled by Turkmen and is aiding the Islamic State in its anti-Bashar al-Assad campaign. The parachuting commander of the Russian warplane downed by Turkey over Syrian skies was killed by Turkmen forces. Turkey is buying Islamic State oil and, therefore, funding its terrorism. President Barack Obama should warn Turkey against mixing with terrorist groups quoting the example of doomed Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A bomb exploded at an Istanbul metro station yesterday (1 December) bringing reminders of the two coordinated suicide bombings on 10 October that killed 103 people participating in a peace rally in Ankara. The terrorist chickens are coming home to roost. India lost a serving and a former prime minister each to terrorist assassinations, a backlash to government support to terrorist groups at home and in Sri Lanka. Pakistan did not learn lessons despite losing the military dictator, General Zia-ul Haq, to a plane bomb and a former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, to a terrorist sniper. Afghanistan is filled with graves of leaders killed by terrorists. What is the guarantee that Turkey will remain insulated?

Turkey has an interest to protect Syrian Turkmen but it cannot mean breaking Syria. Syria can only survive with a political solution in which Assad is involved. If a genuine election ousts him, that is fine, but it is for later. The immediate priority is to focus attention on neutralizing the Islamic State threat after the rival sides in Syria are compelled by their respective backers to accept a ceasefire. In this situation, Turkey cannot back its so-called “good” terrorists and have truck with the Islamic State in apportioning Syria. Turkey will listen to NATO and to the United States. President Obama must impart the foolish present government of Turkey some wisdom.

Terrorism should not be made into an instrument of state policy. See what this policy has done to Pakistan. Sections of the US establishment still see virtue in backing “good” and “moderate” terrorists. There is no such thing as a good or moderate terrorist. Turkey should make a clean break with terrorist groups to save itself.