The potential withdrawal of foreign funding for the Afghan government and for the wide range of social, cultural and economic projects underway in the country might also be catastrophic.
“Education, health care, civil society groups – they are all entirely dependent on foreign funding,” adds Gossman.
Women in particular are likely to suffer, as foreign donor pressure “opened up a space where women could organize – gave them a framework to work with,” adds Gossman.
At the same time, Afghanistan is facing a catastrophic drought this summer, while already, official government statistics suggest about a third of the population face food insecurity.
That number might rise to around half if the drought is not tackled soon in a country where around 90% of the population live below the poverty line.
For the Istanbul conference to successfully tackle these issues is therefore undoubtedly a tall order. Yet, for Turkey, there are several incentives for Ankara to at least try.
First, there is the prospect of a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan leading to large numbers of refugees heading west.
“Refugee displacement would very likely end up on Turkey’s eastern borders,” says Watkins.
Indeed, Turkey is already a major destination for Afghans fleeing the conflict, with more than 200,000 caught trying to enter Turkey in 2019 alone, according to Turkish and Afghan figures.
In 2020, UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) figures showed Afghans also the largest migrant group hazarding the dangerous sea crossing in the Aegean, from Turkey into Greece.
Avoiding a further refugee crisis – Turkey already plays host to many Syrian refugees – would be a powerful incentive for further engagement by Ankara.
Some have indeed suggested that Turkey might maintain some kind of presence in Afghanistan after the US troop departure.
“We will continue to stay in this country as long as our Afghan brothers want,” Cavusoglu said back in March, after the Turkish parliament had voted to extend Turkey’s military presence in the country a further 18 months – until long after the US departure date.
“Turkey has many threads and ties to Afghanistan,” says Gossman, “and interests that go beyond this current phase.”
It has also been suggested that Turkey could use the conference – and the US desire to exit Afghanistan – as a way to gain leverage over Washington, at a time of tense US-Turkish relations.
Turkey dragging its feet, acting as a spoiler, could have an impact on Biden’s withdrawal,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the German Marshal Fund’s Ankara director, told Asia Times.
Indeed, on May 8, news broke that Turkey might give up its current task of securing Kabul airport ahead of the US withdrawal – a move that would severely undermine the security of many Western embassies that use the airport to shuttle personnel in and out of the Afghan capital.
For now though, with Taliban fighters threatening to overrun several of Afghanistan’s smaller regional capitals – and the many different militias and factions within the country manoeuvering for a place, post-US – the Afghan people’s future remains in great doubt.
“There’s great anxiety,” says Gossman. “No one knows what will happen, while old militias re-arm and get ready – in case everything just goes south.”