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    Middle East
     Oct 26, 2007
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Turks have might, but it will be a fight
By Richard M Bennett

The recent upsurge in attacks inside Turkey by the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) separatist movement has led to the first cross-border response by the Turks following the decision by Parliament to allow armed incursion into northern Iraq.

Reports said that Turkish aircraft on Wednesday attacked hideouts thought to be used by the estimated 3,000 Kurdish rebels as they travel between Iraq and Turkey. The Turkish state-run Anatolian news agency reported that operations were taking

place in four predominantly Kurdish provinces of eastern Turkey and "in the border area with Iraq".

Turkey has maintained a small military presence in northern Iraq and a number of important intelligence listening posts since the mid-1990s, reportedly initially with Israeli assistance. These bases have monitored Kurdish activity in a number of forward base camps scattered along the difficult mountain terrain that borders Turkey.

The PKK political leadership is based in a complex of camps in the Qandil mountains near the Iraq-Iran border; here also is the main military training and support base infrastructure.

However, the Kurdish insurgents have learnt the lessons of Afghanistan and Lebanon well and have reportedly spread their arms dumps, intelligence, communications and main fighting units in dozens of well-hidden sites across the whole northern Iraq border zone.

The PKK leadership is fully aware that the Qandil complex is likely to be on the receiving end of a sustained aerial attack by Turkish F16 and F4 fighters and quite probably an Israeli-style special forces helicopter assault by Turkish commando units.

That the Turkish military is capable of such an attack is undoubted; only the will of the government in Ankara has to be proved and assuming Parliament means what it says, then the final part is in place for a serious military attempt to destroy or seriously disrupt the Kurdish insurgents in northern Iraq, at a time of Turkey's choosing.

Turkish armed forces overview
The army. Turkey has had an important role to play in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since 1952. Its forces fulfilled the vital mission of anchoring the alliance's southern flank against the military power of the communist bloc. Turkey was also responsible for defending both the Bosphorus and Dardanelles against any attempt by the Soviet Union's Black Sea fleet to enter the Mediterranean in time of war.

Following the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the Turkish armed forces underwent a significant reorganization which saw a reduction of strength from some 525,000 in 1991 to about 400,000 in 2006. To improve tactical flexibility, the large, unwieldy divisional structure was replaced by smaller and more mobile brigades.

Greatly increased numbers of armored infantry carriers and troop-carrying helicopters further improved the Turkish army's ability to respond rapidly to what was soon to be widely perceived as the nation's greatest threat - Kurdish separatist insurgency.

Indeed, by 2007 the general staff felt able to claim that at short notice, the army could deploy a corps of about 40,000 troops to a combat zone and that a rapid reaction force of some six battalions could be deployed in land operations anywhere in Turkey.

Counter-insurgency operations. The conflict became far more serious during 1992 and some 4,000 died on both sides, including many civilians. The PKK is the most violent and extremist of the Kurdish groups operated from camps in Iraq, Iran and Syria close to the Turkish border. By 1995, about 200,000 Turkish troops and police were deployed in the Kurdish areas.

Saturation by such a large security force and draconian counter-insurgency tactics that resulted in the widescale evacuation and destruction of Kurdish villages temporarily undermined the insurgency, but only at the cost of alienating large numbers of Kurds not directly involved in the separatist movement.

However, by 1995 the army was forced to respond more directly against an increasingly effective Kurdish insurgency. Operation Steel saw more than 35,000 Turkish troops operating in the north of Iraq between March 20 and May 4 against the PKK. This resulted in the deaths of 64 Turkish soldiers, the capture of 13 insurgents, and the deaths of another 555.

In 1997, Turkish forces twice moved into northern Iraq. The first was Operation Hammeris, with 114 Turkish soldiers and a reported 2,730 Kurds being killed when over 40,000 troops penetrated some 200 kilometers into Iraq. The second, Operation Dawn, resulted in the loss of 31 Turkish lives and another 865 Kurdish militants. [1]

Intelligence community overview
Deeply involved in countering the Kurdish insurgency in southern Turkey and monitoring the activities of Kurdish activists abroad is the highly efficient and ruthless National Intelligence Organization, or Milli Istihbarat Teskilati.

Its directorate of operations conducts covert operations while the Directorate of Electronic and Technical Intelligence is responsible for the interception of email, radio and telephone communications. Indeed, Turkey remains important to Washington as highly secretive SIGINT (signals intelligence) bases remain at Sinop, Adana and Diyarbakir.

Internal security remains the responsibility of the special operations section of the General Directorate of Security.

Kurdish insurgents
The PKK was founded along Maoist lines in 1974 by a group of Turkish students of ethnic Kurdish descent led by Abdullah Ocalan. It established a military wing, the People's Liberation Army of Kurdistan (Arteshen Rizgariya Gelli Kurdistan - ARGK) in 1985.

The PKK/ARGK continued with a low-level insurgency throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s, which still managed to claim the lives of some 37,000, until in 1999 Ocalan was arrested in Kenya and extradited to Turkey where he was eventually convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Undoubtedly, the arrest of Ocalan seriously weakened the PKK.

Ocalan went on to declare a unilateral ceasefire from his prison cell and announced his desire to establish a "peace initiative" with Turkey on Kurdish issues. The PKK then publicly disavowed its terrorist tactics.

In 2000, the ARGK wing was renamed the People's Defense Force (HPG) and supposedly only remained in existence for defensive purposes. By 2002, the PKK had changed its name to the Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), also supposedly committing itself to non-violent activities. However, in 2003 KADEK announced that it was dissolving itself and creating a new pan-Kurdish organization called the Kurdistan People's Conference (KHK) that would seek to improve Kurdish rights through negotiations with Turkey. These moves were promptly dismissed by the Turkish authorities as mere public relations tactics.

The recent attacks on Turkish territory were either carried out by a Kurdish terrorist group known as TAK or by the Kurdistan Freedom Brigade (Hazen Rizgariya Kurdistan, HRK). They suggest that the KHK/PKK movement has finally decided that a renewed violent insurgency is the only way to prevent the movement losing all credibility amongst the Kurdish peoples and being left to simply wither away, deprived of sufficient volunteers, money and support.

Threatened with massive Turkish military reprisals, a still unrepentant Murat Karajan, the KHK/PKK military wing leader, said that "an eventual attack in Iraq from the Turkish army would end in defeat, because all Kurds in Iraq and Turkey would close ranks against the threat". Despite this he still offered an olive 

Continued 1 2 

Iran looms over Turkey crisis diplomacy (Oct 25, '07)

Bush teeters on Turkish-Kurd tightrope (Oct 25, '07)

No end in sight of the Kurdish fight (Oct 25, '07)

Why does Turkey hate America? (Oct 23, '07)

Turkey approaches its 'finest hour' (Oct 23, '07)

1. Iran looms over Turkey crisis diplomacy

2. Ahmadinejad, Iran's Putin?

3. Why does Turkey hate America?

4. Bush teeters on Turkish-Kurd tightrope

5. US forced into 'Plan B' for Pakistan

6. Intellectual fallacies of the 'war on terror'

7. The red herring of dollar decline
8. Tehran flaunts new weapons

9. No end in sight for the Kurdish fight

10. The market embraces China's new leaders

(24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, Oct 24, 2007)


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