Robert Gates, the US Defense Decretary, said yesterday he would tell Turkish leaders that the on going Turkish military assault into northern Iraq must not continue for longer than two weeks. This is the first time the US or any of Turkey’s NATO allies have put a time limit on Turkeys military incursion into Iraq. Within hours of Gates announcement, the Turkish military and government were briefing the Turkish media that,“Turkish ground troops who entered northern Iraq on February 21 for a ‘cleanup operation’ of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases, expected to return home in a couple of weeks’ time.*
One of the military spokesmen also gave an insight in to how much the Turkish military have been relying on the United States for intelligence information when he told the media,
“During the previous operations the Turkish armed forces have mounted into northern Iraq they did not have the capability to find the PKK targets accurately. We did not have detailed, almost surgical information about the PKK’s hideouts. Consequently more troops were needed at the time. But most definitely the latest operations are taking place more logically and are based on the US’s real time intelligence.” He went on to say, “Turkey has been providing the US with the list of possible targets, and through the ‘real time intelligence,’ US experts based in Ankara are supplying the Turkish military with accurate locations of the PKK hideouts.
A military analysis told the Turkish Zaman daily newspaper, “Against expectations, the Turkish ground offensive came earlier than planned, in late February instead of some time in March, with the primary goal of catching the PKK by surprise.” “During the massive 1995 Turkish cross border offensive inside northern Iraq, which used around 35,000 troops, the majority of the PKK terrorists had already left the camps as, among other things, the large number of troops were more visible unlike this time when the Turkish military have sent in smaller but equally efficient units which are supported by accurate real time intelligence”.**
If this is true then it seems the Turkish military will have little choice but to withdraw from Iraq at the end of the USA’s new time limit, although this does not mean they will not leave special forces within northern Iraq, or return at sometime in the future.
Whilst the Turkish army is claiming their armed forces have been successful in killing PKK Pesmerga and over running their camps, to date we have seen no video footage of the PKK camps etc which the military have claimed to overrun. Which is surprising as the Turkish military are media savvy, the General Staff even have their own web site. This makes one wonder if the operation is going as well as has been claimed?
Mean while Ahmet Türk the head of the pro Kurdish, Democratic Society Party’s (DTP) group in the Turkish Parliament has said the ground operation launched by the Turkish Armed Forces, (TSK) against the camps of the ‘outlawed’ Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq is a violation of human rights and international law. Which in itself demonstrates just how far Turkey has changed in recent years, for it was not that long ago when anyone who criticized the Turkish military would have been hauled before the courts for slandering the guardians of the Turkish State.
Indeed Mr Türk has in the past been sentenced twice to terms of imprisonment under the above laws, first for using the word ‘Sayin’ in front of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan name, (the word means esteemed and is used as Mr is in English) and the second time he was imprisoned was for distributing a political leaflet in the Kurdish language. As I said all is not bad news, as for him to get up at this time and criticize the Turkish incursion into northern Iraq without sanction amounts to real progress.
The Photos above are of Turkish troops in northern Iraq and the DTP politician Mr Ahmet Türk.