Military accomplishes its mission

The Turkish Armed Forces done significant damage to the terrorist organization's infrastructure in northern Iraq.

Military accomplishes its mission

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have largely achieved their objective of eliminating the ability of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to cross the Turkey-Iraq border for violent attacks inside Turkey, having done significant damage to the terrorist organization's infrastructure in northern Iraq, according to both Turkish and the Western military sources.

The Turkish General Staff announced its withdrawal of ground troops from northern Iraq yesterday morning, as it said the offensive had reached its objective of rendering the terrorists ineffective and destroying their infrastructure. However, Turkish military analysts did not rule out the possibility that Turkish ground troops may re-enter northern Iraq if the PKK threat to Turkey re-emerges. The statement from the General Staff yesterday also said the fight against the terrorists would continue whenever deemed necessary.

The withdrawal of the Turkish ground troops who crossed into northern Iraq on Feb. 21 came after the US had called on Turkey to finish its operation as soon as possible once it had accomplished its mission.

On Thursday US President George W. Bush urged the Turkish forces to "move quickly, achieve their objective and get out." US Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered the same message to the government in Ankara the same day.

Despite the fact that the Turkish troop withdrawal came shortly after US pressure, Turkish senior diplomatic sources say there must have been some consent between the two governments over the timetable of the operations.

Both Turkey's air raids against PKK targets in northern Iraq, which started in December of last year, and this recent ground offensive have been taking place with the supply of US real-time intelligence, enabling the Turkish military to pinpoint PKK targets accurately and to avoid possible collateral damage. The US has also had concerns over possible collateral damage as a result of the ground offensive. It fears increased political repercussions that may alienate the Iraqi Kurds, a close ally of the US in Iraq, as well as further complications for its war in Iraq.

The US has also been worried that Turkey may strike civilian infrastructure used by the PKK, according to Turkish diplomatic sources.

Though not disclosed by the General Staff, Turkish ground operations have taken place in a limited zone of up to 16 kilometers inside northern Iraq, mainly the regions of Hakurk and Zap, where PKK hideouts are concentrated. Around 3,000 Turkish ground troops supported by jetfighters and land artillery are said to have been involved in the operations.

The US real-time intelligence supply that allowed Turkey to pinpoint targets accurately made large numbers of troops unnecessary, said a Western military analyst.

Independent of the General Staff's statement on the success of the operations, reliable Turkish and Western military sources said that Turkey's air raids and ground offensive have disrupted and destroyed the PKK's hideouts and that it will take perhaps months for the terrorists to re-establish them.

The success of the operations can be measured not with the number of the terrorists killed, but rather the degree to which the PKK's supply lines in northern Iraq have been disrupted; the best way to prevent them from crossing the border to stage violent attacks inside Turkey.

In the meantime, Turkey already has around 3,200 Turkish troops deployed in northern Iraq who can continue their mission of observation of the PKK in the region.

US underscores non-military measures

Since the Turkish ground troops have withdrawn from northern Iraq, Turkey should now give weight to non-military measures, including increased dialogue with both the Iraqi central authority and the Iraqi Kurds, said a Western diplomatic source.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's foreign policy advisor, Ahmet Davutoğlu, was in Baghdad this week in the midst of the Turkish ground offensive to explain the Turkish incursion and to lessen Iraq's increased criticism of the Turkish assault.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is also expected to visit Turkey some time in March. Turkey is hoping to increase the Iraqi awareness of the PKK threat to Iraq's own stability.

The US has been urging Ankara to take non-military measures to reduce popular support for the PKK and to address Kurdish grievances. The withdrawal of ground troops will give Turkey time to give emphasize non-military measures, said a Turkish diplomatic source.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Mart 2008, 10:31