Erdogan says Turkey to continue military operation against N.Iraq PKK

Photo showing banners with Turkish President Tayyip Rajab Erdogan and Turkey’s ruling AK Party (AKP) flags hang over Galata bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, June 10, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 11 June 2018
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Erdogan says Turkey to continue military operation against N.Iraq PKK

  • Erdogan: “We have begun our operations in Qandil and Sinjar a...twenty of our planes destroyed 14 important targets.
  • The PKK has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said Turkey was pressing an operation against bases of outlawed Kurdish militants in northern Iraq with intense air strikes that were far from over.
Speaking less than two weeks ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections, Erdogan told a rally that the Turkish air force had destroyed 14 key targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Qandil mountain area of northern Iraq.
There has been growing expectation in Turkey that the government was preparing a major operation against the PKK in Qandil although Ankara has denied any link with the looming June 24 polls.
“We have begun our operations in Qandil and Sinjar,” Erdogan told a rally in the Anatolian province of Nigde.
“Twenty of our planes destroyed 14 important targets. They struck and came back. It’s not over and it will continue,” he said.
The Turkish army on Sunday had already announced it had hit 14 targets in air raids on Qandil.
A presidential source later specified that Erdogan’s comments related only to Qandil and not Sinjar, another area in northern Iraq where the PKK has a presence.
Analysts say that a major operation against the PKK in northern Iraq would give Erdogan a welcome boost in the snap polls which are expected to be tighter than initially predicted.
But an extensive ground operation would also be fraught with risk, given the complex mountainous terrain of the Qandil region which is well known to the PKK but not the Turkish army.
It is in this area that the PKK’s military leadership such as Murat Karayilan and Cemil Bayik are believed to be based.
Outlawed by Ankara and its Western allies, the PKK has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, and the army is battling the group’s militants both inside Turkey and in northern Iraq.
Ankara earlier this year successfully carried out a major cross-border incursion into Syria along with allied Syrian rebels, taking the Afrin region in the northwest from a Kurdish militia.
Erdogan accused his main election rival Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu of being opposed to the Afrin operation, charging: “This country cannot be managed by the likes of you.”


Turkey may launch new offensive against US-backed Kurdish militia in Syria

Updated 22 September 2018
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Turkey may launch new offensive against US-backed Kurdish militia in Syria

  • The operation is expected to begin from Turkey’s southeastern border town of Suruc
  • Turkey maintains its regional alliance with Russia as leverage against US support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia

ANKARA: Turkey is gearing up for a military offensive on Tal Abyad in Syria, according to some news reports, with video footage showing the Turkish military deploying troops near its border town Akcakale. 

Experts interviewed by Arab News noted that the military deployment to the Syrian border with many tanks and howitzers was aimed at putting additional pressure on the US to accelerate the implementation of a roadmap endorsed by Turkey and the US in June for the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

A recent agreement between Ankara and Moscow that forestalled a full-scale Syrian regime offensive against the Syrian province of Idlib also triggered Turkey’s ambitious military activities along the border. 

Turkey maintains its regional alliance with Russia as leverage against US support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, seen as a domestic security threat to Turkey due to their links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state for more than three decades. 

And the Manbij roadmap between Turkey and the US consists of the withdrawal of the YPG from the city to stabilize the region.

Tal Abyad, an Arab-majority town located to the north of Raqqa city and near the Turkish border, was captured from Daesh in 2015 by the YPG in an offensive supported by US-led airstrikes. The YPG remains a reliable American partner in Syria. 

A potential operation in Tal Abyad, if it happens, would likely mark a new phase in Turkey’s military intervention in Syria by directly clashing with the YPG on the ground. 

Mete Sohtaoglu, an analyst on Syrian politics, expects Turkey’s operation in Tal Abyad to start by March 2019. 

“Turkey’s main objective is to wipe out all YPG presence in the east of the Euphrates. The details of the operation, if it occurs, will become clear following an upcoming meeting between Turkish and American presidents,” he told Arab News. 

“The operation is expected to begin from Turkey’s southeastern border town of Suruc, then will specifically include the zone between Tal Abyad and Kobani cantons,” he said. 

Although not officially confirmed, Trump and Erdogan are likely to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s 73rd session, which will begin on Sept. 25. 

According to Sohtaoglu, the prime condition for the US to address Ankara’s concerns and withdraw its support for the YPG would be a change of policy by Turkey about Iran. 

Ankara recently gave the green light for military cooperation with Washington in Syria. Since June 18, US and Turkish troops have been conducting “coordinated independent patrols” to the north of Manbij as part of the roadmap. 

In a press conference on Friday, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin announced that Turkey would soon start joint training and patrols with the US in the Syrian Kurdish-held town of Manbij, but said Washington’s continuous arms support of the YPG was unacceptable.

The US State Department omitted the YPG and its political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) from its 2017 Country Reports on Terrorism, which was released on Wednesday.

However, some experts do not expect any decrease of US support to its local partner YPG, while mobilizing the forces alongside the border is a tactical move. 

“I don’t expect an imminent and direct military operation to Tal Abyad. I think the recent military reinforcement intends to put pressure on the US to quickly operationalize the joint roadmap on Manbij, another Kurdish-held province,” Oytun Orhan, a Syria expert at the Ankara-based think-tank ORSAM, told Arab News. 

Orhan thinks that Turkey’s tactical move would change the local balance in Tal Abyad. 

“It would create a sense that the Turkish army wants to enter the area and would incite some rebels. The removal of YPG from this province would undermine the terror group’s aim to create an integrated zone in this region because it will break the geographical continuity between the cantons,” he said. 

Further increasing its geographical importance, Tal Abyad is located on an intermediate point between the major cantons of Kobani and Qamishli. 

Orhan said that Turkey already had the support of Arab tribes that took refuge in Turkey from Tal Abyad, and Ankara’s ability to rally this support in an Arab-majority town would force the US to reconsider its alliance with the YPG. 

“In the past, the Arab tribes that took shelter in Turkey often expressed their willingness to take part in an Turkish operation to Tal Abyad if Ankara supports them,” he said. 

Last year in March, Turkey convened a meeting of about 50 Sunni Arab tribal leaders in the Turkish southeastern province of Sanliurfa that lies to the north of Tal Abyad, and their position against the YPG was put on the table.