Ground operation comes earlier than planned
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launched ground operations backed by Turkish fighter jets against outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorist targets in northern Iraq late on Thursday, earlier than the original plan for some time in March.
It has long been speculated that Turkish air raids -- which started on Dec. 16 last year with the support of US real-time intelligence and which are said to have had a serious psychological impact on the PKK by disrupting its communications and other infrastructure -- would be followed by ground operations. Though not on a large scale, the ground operations were required for the success of the military strategy to destabilize the PKK activities in N. Iraq.
But the ground operations came earlier than planned, mainly to catch the PKK by surprise, said a Turkish military analyst. According to earlier estimates, the TSK was planning to launch the ground offensive in late March, waiting for the snow in the region to melt.
The ground operations in northern Iraq, which were said to have taken place with several thousand troops, also came soon after Foreign Minister Ali Babacan's statement on Feb. 19 en route to Russia, noting ground operations might be launched. His statement came in response to Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's warning over the Turkish air raids, which now total six since Dec. 16. "Our patience is wearing thin. We will not keep quiet if Turkey's operations continue," Barzani warned at the time.
However, as can be understood from the US statement made soon after the Turkish ground operations started -- which described the Turkish offensive as self-defense, but warned against excessive use of force -- US support in the form of real-time intelligence will continue for Turkey's ground offensives, too.
The TSK, for its part, pledged its respect for Iraq's sovereignty, noting that the ground offensive would continue until it reaches the target of ending the use of northern Iraq as a base for the PKK, which has frequently infiltrated from northern Iraq to stage violent attacks in Turkey.
GROUND OPERATIONS ARE 'LOGİCAL STEP'
As announced by the TSK in a statement posted on its Web site, air raids and artillery fire from within Turkey launched on Thursday morning against PKK targets in northern Iraq continued with the start of ground operations against the terrorist targets.
"Now it is a logical step to continue with the ground operations through which you put people on ground to destroy the logistics that the PKK left behind as a result of the Turkish air raids," said a Turkish military analyst.
The Turkish General Staff statement also noted that the ground operations were launched to prevent northern Iraq from becoming a permanent and secure base for the PKK, hinting that the Turkish military will not stay long in Iraqi territory. However, it is expected that the Turkish ground offensive will continue on and off until the PKK targets are rendered ineffective, said the same military analyst.
The Turkish ground operations also came soon after high level visits between the Turkish and US top level generals, with the latest visit paid by US Gen. James Cartwright, deputy US joint chief of staff, to Turkey, where he met with Gen. Ergin Saygun, deputy chief of Turkish General Staff.
According to the accounts of Turkish military sources, the Turkish military's earlier air raids disabled PKK communication links and intelligence assets, leaving the terrorists so intimidated that they have stopped using their communication equipment for fear that the signals relayed could be easily traced through the intelligence supplied by the US.
Turkish pilots who had been limited to training exercises at ranges such as the one in Konya, central Anatolia, during the Anatolian Eagle maneuvers have reportedly improved their skills in the air raids taking place against the PKK hideouts in northern Iraq.
The improvement of the pilots' skills also resulted in more success in hitting the critical targets of the PKK, reducing the latter's ability to coordinate any infiltrations inside Turkey to mount deadly attacks. "Turkish pilots' degree of proficiency has been developing while they have become more confident in their air raids in areas -- i.e. northern Iraq -- where they had not been familiar with the terrain before. The more their proficiency improves the better their success in air raids," says a Turkish military analyst.
As a result of increased proficiency of the Turkish military, ground operations have also become possible earlier than planned, while catching the PKK by surprise, said the Turkish military analyst.
In a related development, there has been speculation that the US, which has been supplying real-time intelligence to Turkey -- key in accurately determining the PKK targets -- may now press Ankara to send combat troops to Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda terrorists. However, Turkey had previously pledged to contribute with around 24 officers to train Afghan military personnel, refusing to send additional troops for combat missions.
Afghanistan is expected to be one of the priority topics to be discussed during a scheduled visit to Turkey by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Source: Today's Zaman
Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Şubat 2008, 09:56