On Aug. 18, the Turkish military said fighter-jets, helicopters and
artillery attacked 60 suspected PKK targets in northern Iraq. A military
statement said no Kurdish civilians were targeted in the operation on Aug.
17, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The Turkish Armed Forces will continue with similar actions inside and
outside of Turkey with determination, until the north of Iraq becomes a
secure, livable area and the separatist organization which uses it as a base
for attacks on Turkey is rendered ineffective," the military said.
On Aug. 16, Erdogan convened the General Staff to review options for an
offensive against the PKK, which has escalated attacks against Turkish Army
and security forces over the last month. The meeting was meant to prepare
for an Aug. 18 session of the National Security Council, which approves all
major defense and military decisions.
The PKK has conducted a series of lethal ambushes and bombings that have
killed nearly 50 soldiers in mid-2011. On Aug. 17, at least 11 Turkish
troops were killed in a bombing attributed to the PKK in the southeastern
province of Hakari.
"They are trying to test our patience," Turkish Defense Minister Ismet
Yilmaz said. "We will defeat them by acting within the scope of the law and
democracy. Everybody will see us defeat them."
Officials said Erdogan wants any Turkish counter-insurgency operation to
combine the capabilities of special operations forces in the police and
army. They said at least 500 of the police's SOF unit would be sent to the
southeastern provinces of Diyarbakir, Hakari and Sirnak, the focus of PKK
operations. The police SOF unit contains 6,000 officers, many of them
trained in CI skills.
The prime minister has also pushed for a bigger role for Turkey's
paramilitary Gendarmerie. Officials said the proposal has been endorsed by
new Chief of Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel, promoted from Gendarmerie chief
to military commander earlier this month.
"The idea is that the military would provide air and ground support for
an operation conducted by those trained in anti-terrorist
methods," an official said. "Mere air or artillery strikes were tried before
and proved quite ineffective."
At first, Erdogan suggested that any major anti-PKK operation begin
or in September. Officials cited an Iranian military operation in the
Kandil mountains, said to have destroyed several Kurdish training camps.
Ankara has also been coordinating with Baghdad and Washington in
intelligence-gathering and analysis on the PKK presence in northern Iraq.
"We are at the point where our patience with regard to Ramadan has run
out," Erdogan said before the National Security Council meeting. "Those who
do not distance themselves from terror will pay the price."