Kurdish War: Turning The Screws On The PKK


November 24, 2007: Winter has hit southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. Snow already covers the slopes of the mountains in southeastern Turkey and is evident in some of the valleys along the Iraq-Turkey border in the Khandil Mountain region (where the PKK has its base areas). This means that large scale combat operations are increasingly less likely. Turkish special operations forces will continue to conduct missions in the region, but conventional forces attacking high altitude base camps and attempting to hold territory in cold, wet weather are taking additional risks – the kinds of risks commanders don't relish. Mobility is obviously an issue, but supply may be an even bigger concern. Bad weather usually grounds transport helicopters and limits the availability of attack helicopters (special ops and medevac will still fly). Bad weather also limits the effectiveness of fixed-wing air support. This does not favor the rebels. Moving on foot in snow and wet weather conditions in mountainous terrain is very difficult. If rebels are detected in transit they can "curl up" for only so long. Freezing temperatures become a threat to life. Light a fire and the rebel column gives away its position.

November 23, 2007: Turkish officers claim the U.S. promised Turkey that the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) will be "eliminated" from Iraq by early next summer. "Eliminated" is a very strong word, more likely are Turkish media reports that May 2008 is the date promised for getting rid of PKK bases in Iraq. That makes a lot more sense because the bases can be destroyed. The PKK fighters, however, will scatter. The Turkish military is also acknowledging that intelligence sharing with the US has improved. The US had promised to provide Turkey with better (more detailed) intelligence on PKK operations in northern Iraq. Turkey has been interested in receiving more "real-time" intelligence, which usually means videos from Predator UAVs, but can also mean signals and electronic intelligence data. However, it's worth remembering that the Turks aren't novices at using SIGINT and ELINT. The Turks operate their own electronic warfare aircraft.

November 21, 2007: An Iraqi Army unit surrounded a refugee camp in northern Iraq and begun inspecting all vehicles and people who enter and leave the camp. The camp houses Kurdish refugees who fled Turkey in the 1990s. The Turks claimed the camp serves as a supply point for the PKK. This is an indication that the Iraqi government is trying to follow-through on its promise to Turkey to stop PKK fighters from moving freely in Northern Iraq. Turkey wants more that movement restrictions, however - Turkey wants PKK leaders arrested.

November 20, 2007: What is the best way to end the Turkey's Kurd war? Two years ago the Turkish government decided the time was increasingly ripe for ending the war. It began a three-pronged plan. The military prong has received the most attention. Turkey beefed up military forces in southeastern Iraq and established a security zone that could easily become a "forward deployment area" for launching a major ground attack into northern Iraq. Turkey also began a diplomatic offensive with the Iraqi government as the target. The Turks do not want the Iraqi government to fall. It doesn't want the chaos on its border, nor does it want an independent Kurdistan to emerge. However, the Turks concluded they could put a lot of pressure on the Iraqis (both the national government and on Iraqi Kurds) to give up the PKK camps in northern Iraq. Turkey also pressured the US, which relies on Turkish land and air routes for supplies. Turkey had to be measured in the way it took on the U.S., because the U.S. and Turkey have a lot of common interests that go way beyond Iraq. So what was the third prong? That third prong actually began in the 1990s, when several Turkish leaders (some of them Turkish Kurds) said that legitimate Kurdish economic and political complaints had to be addressed or the war would never end. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) decided to reach out to Turkish Kurds as part of its domestic election strategy. Thus, in July 2007 Prime Minister Erdogan's AKP got a substantial majority of votes in southeastern Turkey (which is a predominantly ethnic Kurdish region). Kurds also placed 20 independent Kurdish candidates in Turkey's parliament. For years the majority of Turkish Kurds said that the "PKK problem" was not the real "Kurdish problem" in Turkey. The real Kurdish problem was lack of economic opportunity and political disenfranchisement. Remember, the PKK came to life during the Cold War as a Marxist rebel organization that wanted to create Communist Kurdistan. Frankly, most Kurds weren't interested in Communism at all. Many have tired of the trouble the PKK creates. The AKP decided that these Kurds were potential AKP voters. So the third prong is democratic enfranchisement in Turkey. Are Turkish Kurds happy? No, not yet, but there is improvement. Economic and political improvement in Turkey's Kurdish provinces is a direct attack on the PKK's political appeal. (Austin Bay)

November 18, 2007: The Iraqi government announced that it had begun supplying the Kurdish regional government (in Iraqi Kurdistan) with "more modern security equipment." The equipment includes computers, security detection equipment, fingerprint (biometric) analysis equipment, and security cameras. This is the kind of equipment Iraqi Kurds can use at security checkpoints in Kurdistan to try and stop PKK rebels.


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