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Editorial

Turkey’s fight against terror and KSA support

Turkey's airstrikes against the terrorists of Daesh has been decisive and by many accounts devastating. It mirrors the operation against terrorists in Yemen led by the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has backed Turkey’s action.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to discuss the Turkish military operation against Daesh. King Salman has said terrorist organizations are working to destabilize the region’s security and supported Turkey’s right to protect its people. This shows the Kingdom's keenness to fight terror. Saudi Arabia has been a victim of terrorism and has mounted a vigorous drive to fight terror groups.
Now Turkish warplanes are in the skies along with those of America and its Arab allies. Daesh already faces serious problems. It cannot move large concentrations of fighters without risking attack. Whether by day or night, it is open to airstrikes. Its communications are monitored around the clock. On the ground its thugs can still butcher and terrify captured populations. But slowly and steadily its ability to spread its evil is being undermined.
However, until now, there had been one key piece missing from the campaign. Turkey was reluctant to complete the encirclement. President Erdogan and his government wanted international action against Bashar Assad and his murderous regime in Damascus. Some in the international community chose to see the rise of Daesh as a way of ending the Syrian government’s campaign to crush its own people. Assad had actually encouraged Daesh in the correct expectation that it would turn on its fellow fighters in the Free Syrian Army. Thus for a long time, the terrorists were able to move back and forth across the 900-kilometer Turkish-Syrian border. Terror networks organized a regular flow of recruits and supplies.
The suicide bombing in Suruc last week changed everything. The outrage killed 32 young Turks. It was a direct challenge to Ankara. It was supposed to be a warning that Turkey should leave the Daesh terrorists alone. But the terrorist leaders miscalculated. Turkish patience was not opened-ended. Daesh has now discovered this to its cost.
Turkish security forces have arrested hundreds of Daesh operatives in Istanbul and at key transit points across the country. Security along the land frontier is being strengthened with thousands of extra troops deployed. Border security at ports and airports has been tightened. It will now be very hard for Daesh recruits to use Turkey as a staging post on their way to Syria. Moreover, Turkey and Washington are to create a safe zone within Syria. This will form a haven for refugees fleeing the fighting, not least the brutal attacks of Daesh.
What is significant is that Turkey has been given the unequivocal backing of its NATO partners. It is the alliance's only Muslim member. This week it called an extraordinary meeting of the organization in Brussels. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that the 28 member countries strongly condemned the terrorist attacks and stood in solidarity with Turkey.
Ankara could have requested physical support. But with the second largest army in NATO after the US, Turkey needs little in the way of assistance. It is likely that special units and advanced monitoring equipment from other members may be deployed. But Turkey’s disciplined partly conscript armed forces are well-equipped and highly motivated.
An equally significant move is Turkey’s agreement to allow US warplanes to operate from the Incirlik Air Base. By operating from air fields closer to Daesh territory, Turkish and American aircraft are better able to hit “targets of opportunity.” Until now some of the missions flown against Daesh have been patrols, which if no targets are found, have returned to base with their weapons. NATO’s endorsement of Turkey’s aerial campaign specifically used the word “terrorism.”
This also embraces the Turkish airstrikes on the Kurdish separatist PKK camps in Iraq, following PKK attacks on Turkish troops. Erdogan has said that these assaults mean that peace negotiations with the PKK are “dead in the water.” NATO as a whole is clearly uneasy.
Erdogan’s more pressing concern has to be that the PKK is trying to take advantage of the emergency created by Daesh. It would be nonsensical to fight one terrorist menace while leaving another free to operate at will. Indeed from a strategic point of view this would be madness. In the face of massive Turkish airstrikes, the ideal outcome would be for the PKK to realize their error and resume the cease-fire and the talks.

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