2007 "fall offensive" is proving to be a major, sustained counter-PKK effort.
Both Turkish Army and paramilitary police (gendarmerie) are participating in
the various operations in Turkey's predominantly-Kurd southeastern provinces.
During the past week the Turkish government reported 15 Turkish soldiers and
paramilitary police have died in fighting. That means the fighting has been
widespread and intense. The offensive started in mid- September (possibly on
September 12). The fact the fighting this year is particularly intense should
not be a surprise. Last spring senior Turkish military leaders began sending
the message that this year the Turkish security forces would attempt to destroy
PKK rebels who remain on the Turkish side of the Turkey-Iraq border. Senior
Turkish politicians let the military set the rhetorical stage, then began
saying the same thing. The politicians used the statements to prod the Iraqi
government. It was also politically popular within Turkey (except among pro-PKK
Kurds, of course). In mid-November the looming winter weather makes military operations
more difficult. The Turkish military estimates there are 1500 to 2000 PKK
fighters within Turkey, so if the Turkish military intends to destroy PKK
cadres or push them into Iraq or Syria, they have approximately nine to ten
weeks to do it. The Turkish military estimates another 3500 are inside Iraq. At
the moment major counter-PKK operations are underway in Hakkari, Siirt, and
Sirnak provinces. Operations also continue in Tunceli, Diyarbakir, Bingol, and
Bitlis. The army operations receive most of the press coverage, in part because
the Turkish military files regular reports. The army would move across the
border if the decision is made to attack PKK bases in northern Iraq. However,
the paramilitary police are in many ways the better force for dealing with the
small PKK cadres. The Gendarmerie is an arm of the Turkish Ministry of Interior
but operates under military direction. The paramilitary police have their own
special strike units (special operations units). The police play a key role in
obtaining tactical intelligence. The police remain in the towns and villages.
They are also always monitoring PKK supply routes and looking for supply
caches. They also provide "continuing presence" which is vital in
counter-insurgency operations. This is why the PKK targets Turkish paramilitary
police headquarters and stations in the villages and border areas. Turkish
military officers also acknowledged in late July that this year new, improved
sensors have been deployed, including improved night vision video cameras
located on suspected infiltration routes.
The Turkish government insists
that the US Congress is "endangering" US-Turkish relations. The US Congress has
passed a resolution condemning "the Armenian genocide" committed by Turkey in
1915. The Turkish government says that a war was going on (World War One) and
that any genocide was committed by Ottoman Turkey, not the new republican
October 10, 2007: Turkish
fighter bombers struck PKK positions near the Turkey-Iraq border. The attack
was coordinated with Turkish ground troops who took up blocking positions to
stop PKK fighters from escaping into northern Iraq. The Turkish military report
said that F-16 fighter bombers and helicopter gunships attacked the PKK
positions. The attacks appear to be part of a major operation in Sirnak.
Turkish armor was spotted in the town of Silopi (also in SIrnak province).
Turkish artillery (located inside Turkey in Hakkari province) shelled alleged
PKK base camps around Manimasa, Nazdur, and Sinath in northern Iraq.
October 9, 2007: Turkish
security personnel reported arrested 20 PKK fighters in Sirnak province. The
suspects were detained at a border crossing post on the Iraq-Turkey border. The
Trukish military also reported an attack on PKK rebels in the Mount Gabar region
October 7, 2007: Turkish
security personnel killed one PKK fighter in a clash in Sirnak province. Three
Turkish soldiers were wounded in other action in the area.
October 4, 2007: The Turkish
government reported that several firefights erupted between Turkish security
personnel and PKK rebels in Mardin province (along the Syrian border).
Operations also continue in Sirnak and Tunceli. Another government report
characterized the firefights in Tunceli as "small-scale but intense," which
suggests the firefights are small "running gun battles" between paramilitary
police and PKK infiltrators.
September 30, 2007: PKK rebels
attacks a minibus in the village of Besagac (Sirnak province). 12 villagers
died in the attack. Seven of the villagers were members of the local "Vllage
Guard" militia. This may have been a "payback" attack. Many PKK fighters and
members of the Village Guards have a particularly personal animus. In the past
the PKK have accused the Village Guards of various human rights abuses, like
employing "death squads" and torturing of suspected PKK members. And the PKK
have had good reason to make the accusations. In fact, the Turkish government
has been trying to "reform" the Village Guard program, in part because of the
human rights abuse accusations and pressure from the European Union to improve
Turkey's human rights record.
Turkish troops have had an
increasing number of clashes with PKK fighters over the last two weeks, as the
army increased its efforts to find and destroy small units of PKK fighters
hiding out in southeastern Turkey. Turkish officials are also openly talking
about going after known PKK groups hiding out in northern Iraq.