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After attacks kill 12 soldiers, Turkey reveals new anti-terror strategy

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 6/21/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Following a bloody weekend in its Southeast, Turkey has announced it will restructure its intelligence and military operations in an attempt to stop the growing attacks.

Following a bloody weekend in the country’s Southeast, Turkey has announced that it will restructure its intelligence and military operations in an attempt to stop the growing attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The threefold anti-terror strategy announced Monday will see Turkey review current operations, intensify cooperation with neighboring countries and work to boost the nation’s morale while psychologically weakening terrorist groups.

The government’s announcement, however, was not met with full support from opposition parties, which called such “daily and temporary measures” insufficient to stop the bloodshed.

“The fight against terror was widely assessed and in light of recent developments, additional short- and mid-term measures were decided to be taken,” read a written statement issued following a security summit chaired Monday by President Abdullah Gül with the participation of top civil and military officials, including the heads of the intelligence service and the newly established civilian anti-terror unit.

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Twelve troops died over the weekend in clashes with the PKK, largely as a result of the outlawed group’s assault on a military outpost in the Şemdinli district of Hakkari province. Forty-six Turkish troops have been killed in the last two months, prompting renewed concerns about the threat the PKK poses to the country.

Participants in the summit agreed to review the intelligence-gathering operations and structure of the military personnel serving in the country’s Southeast, where the PKK is very active. This decision was seen as an acknowledgement that security officials are aware of the lack of information on the moves of terrorist groups, though the military and the National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, have denied allegations of the existence of such gaps.

The military has also been criticized for sending new recruits to a region where the fight against the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, requires more expertise. Military experts suggested deploying only the best troops to the region and strengthening the military outposts in the area.

[HH] Seeking more foreign support

The second part of the new strategy calls for intensifying coordination with neighboring countries and others related to the fight against the PKK, a change that is likely to bring more talks with Iraq and especially Massoud Barzani, the head of the Regional Kurdish Administration in northern Iraq. During his landmark visit to Turkey in early June, Barzani was given strong evidence and information on the PKK’s moves in his region. Though some progress has been observed, Turkish diplomats said they are still far from satisfied with Barzani’s support for anti-terrorism efforts.

The subject is also expected to be part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s likely meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during the G-20 summit in Toronto on June 26 and 27. “The joint fight against terror will be on our agenda if this meeting is set,” a diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday.

Before relations soured following Israel’s attack on a Gazi-bound aid flotilla, Turkey received crucial support from Israel in its fight against the PKK and the Turkish military still uses Israeli-made drones to provide intelligence about the terrorist group.

The third part of the strategy calls for a solid psychological “war” to keep up the nation’s morale without giving courage to the terrorists through press headlines. “The media should be more sensitive in informing the public opinion,” the statement issued Monday said.

According to government sources, the meeting Monday will be followed by others to review the state of the fight against the PKK, and will be accompanied by meetings with opposition parties to try and secure the entire country’s support.

[HH] Meeting with the opposition

As part of this effort, Gül met Monday with Devlet Bahçeli, the head of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, who has strongly opposed the government-led “Kurdish move” and accused Erdoğan of igniting separatist acts in the country.

“The threat posed against our country is so large that we cannot avoid it with daily and temporary measures. It’s time to evade this trouble pestering us for years. The only solution is the full annihilation or capture of the PKK,” Bahçeli told Gül, according to a written statement issued by the MHP.

Gül’s second meeting was with Gülten Kışanak, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, which had asked the government to give more legal rights to the country’s ethnic Kurds as part of its initiative. When this request was not met, the BDP warned that the disappointment would only bring more pain to the country and its people.

The president is also planning to meet Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, on Tuesday in Istanbul.

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