US Special Forces Hunting Turkish PKK Leaders



By Robert D. Novak
Monday, July 30, 2007; Page A15
The morass in Iraq and deepening difficulties in Afghanistan have not deterred the Bush administration from taking on a dangerous and questionable new secret operation. High-level U.S. officials are working with their Turkish counterparts on a joint military operation to suppress Kurdish guerrillas and capture their leaders. Through covert activity, their goal is to forestall Turkey from invading Iraq.
While detailed operational plans are necessarily concealed, the broad outlines have been presented to select members of Congress as required by law. U.S. Special Forces are to work with the Turkish army to suppress the Kurds' guerrilla campaign. The Bush administration is trying to prevent another front from opening in Iraq, which would have disastrous consequences. But this gamble risks major exposure and failure.
The Turkish initiative reflects the temperament and personality of George W. Bush. Even faithful congressional supporters of his Iraq policy have been stunned by the president's upbeat mood, which makes him appear oblivious to the loss of his political base. Despite the failing effort to impose a military solution in Iraq, he is willing to try imposing arms -- though clandestinely -- on Turkey's ancient problems with its Kurdish minority, who comprise one-fifth of the country's population.
The development of an autonomous Kurdish entity inside Iraq, resulting from the decline and fall of Saddam Hussein, has alarmed the Turkish government. That led to Ankara's refusal to allow U.S. combat troops to enter Iraq through Turkey, an eleventh-hour complication for the 2003 invasion. As the Kurds' political power grew inside Iraq, the Turkish government became steadily more uneasy about the centuries-old project of a Kurdistan spreading across international boundaries -- and chewing up big pieces of Turkey.
The dormant Turkish Kurd guerrilla fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) came to life. By June, the Turkish government was demonstrating its concern by lobbing artillery shells across the border. Ankara began protesting, to both Washington and Baghdad, that the PKK was using northern Iraq as a base for guerrilla operations. On July 11, in Washington, Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy became the first Turkish official to assert publicly that Iraqi Kurds have claims on Turkish territory. On July 20, just two days before his successful reelection, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened a military incursion into Iraq against the Kurds. Last Wednesday, Murat Karayilan, head of the PKK political council, predicted that "the Turkish Army will attack southern Kurdistan."
Turkey has a well-trained, well-equipped army of 250,000 near the border, facing some 4,000 PKK fighters hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. But significant cross-border operations surely would bring to the PKK's side the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the best U.S. ally in Iraq. What is Washington to do in the dilemma of two friends battling each other on an unwanted new front in Iraq?
The surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Cheney who is now undersecretary of defense for policy. Edelman, a Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces to help the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years.
Edelman's listeners were stunned. Wasn't this risky? He responded that he was sure of success, adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied. Even if all this is true, some of the briefed lawmakers left wondering whether this was a wise policy for handling the beleaguered Kurds, who had been betrayed so often by the U.S. government in years past.
The plan shows that hard experience has not dissuaded President Bush from attempting difficult ventures employing the use of force. On the contrary, two of the most intrepid supporters of the Iraq intervention -- John McCain and Lindsey Graham-- were surprised by Bush during a recent meeting with him. When they shared their impressions with colleagues, they commented on how unconcerned the president seemed. That may explain his willingness to embark on such a questionable venture against the Kurds
The term terrorist is not necessarily that accurate when talking about the PKK.

Personally I think this is a bad move on the part of the US, we should simply tell Turkey to fuck off. :2c:
That's like saying FARC isn't a terrorist organization. PKK is well- known for their attacks in Turkey, Iraq and Europe. It all goes back to the definition. The PKK needs to be wiped out.
Still the US has bases in Turkey.

Yep, and Turkey needs the approval of Europe to gain entrance into the EU and Turkey would loose lots of $ if it tried to mess with the US bases not to mention a plethora of other benefits.

NZ and the US had an unresolved political falling out in the 80's, the US kicked NZ out of a defence treaty (like NATO) however the US still has a couple of military bases in NZ, there was never a question that would change.

I beleive the US should simply tell Turkey to keep out of Iraq.
I agree, but at the same time that would sort of be like Pakistan telling us to stay out of Afghanistan before OEF started. If I were in Turkey's shoes, I would go into Iraq at this time as well.
That's like saying FARC isn't a terrorist organization. PKK is well- known for their attacks in Turkey, Iraq and Europe. It all goes back to the definition. The PKK needs to be wiped out.


I just beleive the Kurds have a legitimate gripe.
In the second phase (1984-1999), which followed the return of civilian rule in 1983, escalating attacks were made on the government's military and vital institutions all over the country. The objective was to destabilise Turkish authority through a long, low-intensity confrontation. In addition to skirmishing with Turkish military and police forces and local village guards, the PKK has conducted suicide bombing on government and police installations, as well as at local tourist sites. Kidnapping and assassination against government officials and Kurdish tribal leaders who were named as puppets of the state were performed as well. Widespread sabotages were continued from the first stage. PKK performed kidnapping western tourists, primarily in Istanbul but also at different resorts. PKK has also attacked Turkish diplomatic and commercial facilities across Western Europe.

In the third phase, or "guerrilla stage", conventional fighting was used to seize cities, overthrow the government and take control of the country. PKK seized cities during the highest activity period, and it also had consequences on the functioning of the Turkish parliament through Turkey's own election system, but there was no case during an active conflict that PKK manage to sustain its flag in a region within the borders of Turkey.

From wiki
They went through a phase of kidnapping tourists for a while, treated them really well, became good friends etc... because they didnt want to piss of the west they just wanted publicity, they would let them go after a few months.
The PKK is a Marxist terrorist organization through and through. Whatever legitimate aspirations Turkish Kurds have, nothing justifies terrorism. especially as practiced by the likes of the PKK. The PKK is also yet another Syrian proxy in its shadow war against its neighbors (though there would still be a PKK without Syrian support and training camps, it would not be quite the same organization).

After Abdullah Ocalan's capture and after 9-11 briefly made terrorism not as cool in some circles, the PKK changed its name and went on a charm offensive. They abandoned this, though, and went back to the old name and ways.

Also, I expect the PKK has had more Kurdish victims than others, but this seems to be true of a lot of terrorist organizations claiming to act on behalf of the people who end up being their most common victims.

It is in the U.S. national security interest to aid Turkey in fighting the PKK, not just because of Iraq and not just because of U.S. bases in Turkey, though these are sufficient in themselves. Indeed, it is in the Iraqi national interest to aid Turkey in fighting the PKK, and not just for fear of invasion. Iraqi Kurds need to prove to Turkey that fulfilling Kurdish aspirations is not a threatening proposition, or Turkish Kurds will never be trusted by Ankara. And for what it's worth, Iraqi Kurds have cooperated with Turkey against the PKK in the past.