Turkey's top security council convened Thursday to revisit the country's anti-terror strategy, recommending the adoption of tougher measures against outlawed groups, making new arrangements in the law enforcement structure and pressuring the internal and international supporters of the illegal groups.
The bimonthly National Security Council, or MGK, convened Thursday under the leadership of President Abdullah Gül and with the participation of top civilian and military officials, just one day after at least nine soldiers were killed in an attack in the eastern province of Hakkari, bringing the total number of troops killed in the last month to over 30. The current state of the military's fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and the developments in neighboring Syria dominated the council's meeting, as both issues were interpreted as critically important for Turkey's stability and security. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
During the meeting, which came a day after Turkish jets bombed PKK targets in northern Iraq in retaliation for the Hakkari attack, participants discussed a complete overhaul to Turkey's strategy against the PKK, including the following measures:
Cross-border operations: The Turkish Air Force will continue to launch aerial operations against PKK targets in northern Iraq, as long as they are deemed necessary. The military's bases in Diyarbakır and Batman have been reinforced with ammunition and other weaponry necessary for operations. Some fighter jets have also been dispatched from the Balıkesir base in the country's northwest to Southeast Anatolia. Likewise, Turkey's land forces were also mobilized in recent days, especially in regions close to the Iraqi border.
Mandate to be extended: Though there is no sign of imminent cross-border operations into Iraq by land forces, sources have not ruled out the possibility. Turkey's last massive operation into northern Iraq was conducted in the winter of 2008. The MGK has decided to extend a parliamentary mandate for another year that allows the government to conduct cross-border operations since the current mandate expires on Oct. 18. The Foreign Ministry will hold meetings with the Iraqi government to ease the conditions for the Turkish military's cross-border operations and its strategies of hot pursuit when necessary.
More intelligence from the U.S.: The U.S. has been providing real-time intelligence to Turkey since late 2007, allowing the Turkish military to conduct efficient cross-border operations into northern Iraq. There are plans to demand more military assistance from the U.S., sources said.
Special attention to Hakkari: Turkey's most remote province, Hakkari, which borders Iraq and Iran, has long been the theater for the PKK's most deadly attacks against troops. Apart from geographical difficulties that hinder an effective military response, the province is also known as a place where the state's control is weakening. In more rural areas of the province, a number of "recruitment camps" have been reportedly set up, providing an important source of manpower for the PKK."They have centers that they communicate with. [There are] locations of persuasion that they use to determine their action plans. I don't want to call it 'headquarters,' but they have places where they make decisions and later carry out the actions," Deputy Prime Minister Hayati Yazıcı said in an interview with the daily Akşam. Yazıcı also complained of the fact that the number of people joining the terrorist organization was on the rise, according to intelligence reports.
Terror acts to escalate: As stated by Murat Karayılan, senior PKK member, the terrorists are preparing for more attacks both in urban and rural places. Apart from targeting security personnel, the attacks could also focus on metropolitan areas. Intelligence reports predict that the attacks could be expanded to the country's Black Sea and East Anatolian regions. The MGK discussed ways to protect citizens from escalated terror acts.Structural changes aheadPolice-military cooperation: The most important change in the strategy is creating an alliance between the military and the police in the fight against terrorism. The strategy envisages a central role for the police's special teams, especially in rural areas of Southeast Anatolia. Authorities also hope to deploy professional army units in high-risk areas, particularly on the border with Iraq, meaning that newly recruited soldiers will not be dispatched to critical posts.New role for governors: Under the MGK's plans, governors will play a key role in providing coordination between the police and the military in order to avoid confusion. The duties and responsibilities of governors are expected to be reinforced through legal arrangements.
Intelligence pool: As part of the new mechanism, the intelligence gathered by different law enforcement units will be collected under one roof and will be processed at the Undersecretariat of Public Order and Security. The processed intelligence will be directly sent to security units in the field so that they can operate more efficiently against the militants.
Political support: The MGK also reviewed the political support given to the PKK by some pro-Kurdish political parties and its effect on the fight against terrorism. A number of civilian organizations are in direct relationship with the terrorists, intelligence reports show, fostering the PKK's increasing influence, especially in urban areas of Southeast Anatolia. Methods of breaking political support for the organization remain an important target in the anti-terror fight.International support: The PKK receives some of the most support from outside the country anywhere in the world, according to intelligence reports. Its main financial source comes largely from Belgium, the Netherlands and some other Western European countries. Ongoing work with the U.S. to force some European institutions to cut the financial links of some groups known to be affiliates of the PKK will be intensified. The MGK also reviewed regional supporters of the PKK, in northern Iraq, Syria and Iran and mulled over ways to break these ties.
Strategy Against PKK Getting Tougher, MGK Says
The PKK terrorist organization succeeded in bringing Turkey back to its dark days by increasing attacks. Discussing the new strategy, National Security Council, or MGK, decided to use fruitful and effective methods in fight against terrorism. MGK said that all sides should distance themselves from the acts of the separatist terrorist organization. Meanwhile, the General Staff said: "Operations will continue until the terrorist organization, which uses the north of Iraq as a shelter, will be neutralized."
Gul to Speak with Parlimentary Speaker, Opposition Leader about MGK Decisions
President Abdullah Gül has invited the parliamentary speaker and the head of the main opposition to the Presidency on Friday to inform them about decisions taken at Thursday's National Security Council, or MGK, meeting.
The invitation is a precedent-setting move that will be implemented after every MGK meeting, according to presidential sources. Gül will meet Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek and Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in separate meetings. Gül's move came after the main opposition party criticized the government for not informing Parliament and the parties represented there about critical issues, such as developments in Syria and the fight against terrorism.The idea of including the main opposition in the composition of the MGK was voiced in the past by Gül but was rejected by the CHP's former leader, Deniz Baykal.
'WHAT HAPPENED TO OLD TERROR STRATEGY?'
Turkey's main opposition party harshly criticized the government for attempts to adopt a new anti-terror strategy on Thursday, with a top party official asking for details on what the ruling party has done to fight terror during its eight-year reign.
"Is your conscious comfortable? Can you sleep well at night? Can you look your children in the eyes?" asked Republican People's Party, or CHP, speaker Birgül Ayman Güler, targeting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with her words. Güler spoke at a press conference on Thursday following the CHP's first Central Executive Board meeting where the escalating terrorist attacks were discussed. Gürsel Tekin, whose status in the party was downgraded this week, did not attend to the meeting due to a friend's funeral in Istanbul.
"The prime minister said they would start a new strategy after the Ramadan holiday. What happened to the old strategy? The problem is that the prime minister relied on his meetings with the terrorist leader and disregarded the requirements of being a government," Güler said."And if bombing the terrorists was the solution, then why was it not done before? And it it's not the solution, then are you not ashamed of trying to console the people with pointless operations?"
Opposition Ready to Help Government Against Terror
Regardless of the criticism, Güler added that the CHP has always been prepared to help the government with the fight against terror, but that they still had the right to ask the government what they have done to fight terror in the eight years they have been in power.
"This is a national problem that should not be turned into a political polemic" she said. Meanwhile, CHP's new decision-making body, or MYK, has convened under the leadership of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for the first time after the party witnessed a surprise reconstruction Wednesday.
Ceremonies Held for Soldiers Killed in PKK Ambush
Two separate ceremonies were held in the southeastern province of Hakkari and the eastern province of Van for the eight soldiers who were killed in an ambush by PKK terrorists in Cukurca town of Hakkari two days ago.
Speaking at the ceremony in Van, Gen. Levent Kose said, "We are suffering a big pain. Our sadness is as big as mountains but we will hold our head high. We did not surrender to violence, and we will never do." The bodies of the soldiers were sent to their hometowns after the ceremonies.
Funerals Held for Soliders in Hakkari, Van
Funeral ceremonies for soldiers who were martyred in a terrorist attack in Cukurca town of southeastern province of Hakkari were held in Hakkari and Van. The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu paid a visit to Ismail Basayar, father of major Yavuz Basayar, who was killed in the terrorist attack. Basayar told Kilicdaroglu that politicians should come together and solve the matter.
Special Forces Hunting Terrorists in Iraq
While jets were bombing Mount Qandil, special forces were hunting terrorists. Soldiers pushed the button to give the harshest response to the recent bloody attack of PKK terrorists. While our warplanes were bombing Qandil, special operations forces proceeded to the other side of the Turkish border. Prior to the operation, 1,000 police forces were transferred to the region.
Details Emerge from PKK Ambush that Killed Eight Soldiers
Interesting details are being revealed about the recent terrorist attack which killed eight soldiers in Cukurca, in the southeastern province of Hakkari. It was claimed that terrorists, who had connection with Syrian terrorist Fehman Huseyin –code named Bahoz-- planted mines on the road by working at night for a week. After the first attack, soldiers asked for support from headquarters, but the second unit sent to the region also fell into the terrorists trap.
Turkish Air Forces Hit PKK Targets in North Iraq Again
Turkey's General Staff has said that Turkish Air Forces planes conducted an air offensive on 28 targets of the PKK terrorist organization in the north of Iraq on Thursday night. The General Staff said in a statement posted on its Web site on Friday that Turkish artillery also hit 96 targets in Qandil Mountain, Zap, Avashin-Bashyan and Kharkurk regions.
"Turkish warplanes returned to their base safely after completing the strike," the statement said.The General Staff said that the operation targeted only the terrorist organization, and necessary attention was paid to avoid any harm to civilian people in the region. Turkish military's similar operations both in Turkey and abroad would continue with a great determination, it added.
U.S. Department of State Spokeswoman Says Turkey has Right to Defend Itself
The U.S. Department of State has said that the United States recognized the right of Turkey to defend itself against terrorist attacks.
Replying to a question on Turkey's air offensive on terrorist camps in the north of Iraq, Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the Department of State, said in a daily press briefing that the United States recognized the right of Turkey to defend itself against terrorist attacks.
"Just in the last month, the PKK has killed more than three dozen Turkish security personnel. We also support continued close cooperation between Iraq and Turkey in working to combat the PKK, which is a common enemy of Iraq, of Turkey, of the United States," Nuland said. Answering a question on diplomatic efforts regarding Syria, Nuland said, "We have been in constant contact with Turkey about the staging of our respective diplomatic moves, and Turkey was very much aware of the timing of our actions today." When a reporter asked, "What is the role of Turkey in this picture? Because you said several times that your coordination is excellent. And what is the result of this coordination?" Nuland said, "Well, yesterday, you saw the very strong statement from Prime Minister Erdoğan comparing Assad to Qadhafi and expressing Turkish frustration. So Turkey has tried very hard to convince its neighbor to do the right thing and end the violence. And unfortunately, Assad has not been listening. So we see increasingly tough rhetoric from Turkey, and the expectation is that that will also be matched by action if this bloodshed does not stop."
Erdogan to Attend Fast-Breaking Dinner with Minorities
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will attend a fast-breaking dinner which will be hosted by 162 religious community foundations in Istanbul on August 28. There will be Greek, Armenian, Jewish, Assyrian, Bulgarian, Georgian, Catholic and Chaldean communities in the dinner.
Turkish PM Visits Somalia to Witness Effects of Drought
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived in Mogadishu Friday to witness the devastation of a severe drought that has left some 12 million people in the Horn of Africa facing starvation. Erdoğan's visit is the first by a non-African leader to the conflict-torn Somali capital in nearly two decades.
Somalia is the worst affected country in the region by the prolonged drought that has sparked famine in five areas in the south of the war-ravaged nation. Erdoğan, who is accompanied by four ministers, was to tour a camp for the displaced and a hospital in Mogadishu, where more than 100,000 people have fled recently to seek relief from the drought.
The visit follows Wednesday's meeting in Istanbul by members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation who pledged to donate $350 million to assist the drought and famine stricken Somalis. Security was tightened in Mogadishu, a city that has been battered by bloody insurgency by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels fighting to unseat the Western-backed Somali government.
The Shebab earlier this month withdrew from Mogadishu in what they said was a tactical move, but vowed to continue fighting. Aid agencies have warned that the whole of southern Somalia could be hit by famine in the coming weeks.The UN's food monitoring unit has described Somalia as facing the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world and Africa's worst food security crisis since the country's 1991-92 famine.
KKTC to Hold November Census
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or KKTC, Foreign Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün has announced that his country is preparing to hold a census on Nov. 27.
The KKTC government holds a census when it deems it necessary to better pinpoint the economic, social and other needs of the people," the Anatolia news agency quoted Özgürgün as saying on Thursday.
Touching on a remark made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his latest assessment report on Cyprus, Özgürgün expressed regret over some of Ban's words, which may leave room for some to interpret the KKTC census as a response to the demands of the Greek-Cypriot administration. Özgürgün said that such an interpretation would not reflect reality.
"Our population studies are done with the aim of increasing the welfare and securityof Turkish Cypriots, and with no goal of satisfying third parties," Özgürgün said.The report submitted by the secretary-general to the UN Security Council was an evaluation of the reunification talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot administrations, which have existed as separate states since 1974, when the Turkish military became involved in counteracting a Greek-backed coup to reunify Cyprus with Greece.
In the recent report, Ban expressed satisfaction with the dedication of both sides to reaching a consensus while giving a green light to the possibility of a final international conference to resolve the question, if both leaders have reached an agreement on core issues by the time of the next trilateral meeting in October