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Americans promise new surge aid to combat PKK violence

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 7/13/2010 12:00:00 AM | ÜMİT ENGİNSOY

Amid increasing terrorist attacks on Turkish targets, the US, which controls Iraq's airspace, has significantly bolstered its cooperation with the Turkish military.

Amid increasing terrorist attacks on Turkish targets in recent weeks, the United States, which controls Iraq’s airspace, has significantly bolstered its cooperation with the Turkish military, multiple sources from both sides said Monday.

“The United States is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and does not want to leave behind a major conflict in the area related to Turkey’s security,” one defense analyst in Ankara told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“As a result, the Americans are increasingly willing to increase cooperation with Turkey against the PKK,” the analyst added, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Various measures taken in recent weeks have contributed to the effectiveness of Turkish military actions on the Iraqi side of the border, experts said.

The U.S. and Turkish militaries have been sharing intelligence about the PKK since November 2007, when President George W. Bush agreed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s request in the wake of stepped-up attacks by the outlawed group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by both countries as well as the European Union.

Stronger U.S. support for Turkey’s fight against the PKK has been reflected in a number of recent developments, sources said Monday, citing increased Turkish access to Iraqi airspace, an agreement to transfer attack helicopters and the ramping up of intelligence sharing.

The United States is now allowing Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to fly into the airspace on the Iraqi side of the border in order to gather information about PKK movement inside Iraq. The Turkish military operates at least four Heron drones obtained from Israel earlier this year and is expected to acquire four more of the vehicles, which are used for reconnaissance and target acquisition, later this summer.

A U.S. Predator unmanned aerial vehicle is meanwhile conducting reconnaissance missions in the Kandil Mountains, which PKK leaders have been using as a safe haven, and conveying the electronic information it gathers to the Turkish military.

Using the intelligence from the Turkish and U.S. drones, the Turkish fighter aircraft and artillery occasionally strike PKK targets on the Iraqi side of the border.

[HH] New attack helicopters from US

The United States has also finally agreed to Turkey’s request to add to its fleet of six AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, which Turkey had formally requested in early 2009. After hesitating for nearly 18 months, the U.S. in recent weeks has agreed to transfer two choppers to the Turkish military in light of the intensifying PKK attacks.

The first of the two helicopters is expected to be ready for Turkish military use in early 2011, with the second to follow shortly thereafter.

Small units of Turkish Special Forces and intelligence officers are meanwhile operating just over the Iraqi side of the border, conducting anti-PKK missions with the consent of the United States.

The PKK generally resumes its attacks in the spring as harsh winter conditions ease. The outlawed group re-launched a large-scale campaign this year, killing more than 100 Turkish military troops and civilians since the spring. More than 100 alleged PKK militants also have been killed in the renewed conflict.

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