ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)–Pedestrians in central Istanbul are fuming as a surge in anti-Obama sentiment envelopes the public opinion after the US president’s request for Turkey to send more combat troops into Afghanistan.
“We have shed enough tears for our dead soldiers. Let him send his own soldiers,” says one university student in Besiktas.
The message from the man on the street is clear about U.S. President Barack Obama’s request for Turkish soldiers to take on combat duties in Afghanistan: You broke it, you fix it.
Most people who spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in Istanbul’s central Besiktas district said they believe Turkey has no business sending its soldiers into combat in Afghanistan. Some, however, looked positively upon a peacekeeping role for Turkish troops there.
“What is our soldiers’ business in Afghanistan? Let us handle our own security first,” said 53-year-old shop owner Muzaffer Harmandar.
“When [a conflict] happens in eastern [Turkey], then they should send troops, too. Let him send his own soldiers,” said 20-year-old university student Busra Ertekin, who added that a vote in Parliament should be required to send troops.
A retired civil servant, 52-year-old Nebahat Sarisozen, said she is absolutely against sending troops. “Now it’s Afghanistan. Let [Obama] send his own soldiers,” she said.
Although most of the people’s first reaction was along the lines of, “You broke it, you fix it,” the majority of them also expressed their belief that intervening in another country’s affairs causes more trouble. “If [countries] go on to get involve in others’ business, [trouble] would not end,” said Harmandar.
“Look at Iraq,” said another craftsmen, 42-year-old Veysel Alp, who added that the United States should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. “Things go worse when [foreign] forces go.”
A 19-year-old student, Murat Bulgan, also said he is against any power’s intervention into another country. He was also skeptical about whether a Turkish peacekeeping force in Afghanistan would face conflict. “I hope they do not see combat,” he said.
Not all the people were as skeptical as Bulgan. “If nothing is going to happen to our soldiers, they can go,” said Alp, immediately adding that Turkish soldiers have no business in combat.
“Sending troops to regions without conflict might be OK, as Afghanistan is a nearby country,” said Ertekin. “If something happens there, it would affect us too.”
Some also believe, however, that the Turkish peacekeeping force has stayed too long in Afghanistan. “They should come back. Let them go there, train other [troops] and come back,” said Sarisozen.
A retired teacher, 57-year-old Nevin Soysal, asked what the benefit would be if Turkey sends peacekeeping troops. “Even we have some benefit, it is not right,” she said.
In general, people’s thoughts about Obama were not positive. “He did not deserve that prize,” said Soysal, referring to the Nobel Peace Prize that the U.S. president recently received. “I could not grasp the function of Obama. I could not see him as a president.”
Bulgan said he had never expected any good from Obama, even from the beginning, and so he was not disappointed with the U.S. president’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.
Ertekin, on the other hand, said she found Obama to be “double-faced.” “He broke his promise,” she said, referring to his election campaign promise to stop war.