NİHAT ALİ ÖZCAN > On the strategy in the fight against the PKK

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After the collapse of negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in May 2011, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government explained its strategy on the PKK problem as “negotiating with politicians and fighting terrorism.” It was an attractive slogan, but its implementation proved to be difficult. The politics and security environment has been changing not only in Turkey, but also in the region. Unfortunately, there is a security meltdown going on in southeastern Turkey, in which the protracted Şemdinli conflict, the car bombings in Gaziantep, and the abduction of Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Huseyin Aygün have been prominent recent incidents. This article aims to focus on the government’s strategy for “fighting terrorism” by putting aside its external dimension.

The AKP government continues to call the PKK a “terrorist organization” due to domestic and international political concerns. Usually, governments facing security challenges similar to those presented by the PKK dwell on the “terrorism” explanation, which is understandable for political reasons. An effective fight against terrorism, however, requires an accurate diagnosis of the security problem. Governments need to determine their strategies according to the character of the imminent security threat, which is not what Turkey is doing. The AKP government has diagnosed the PKK problem and developed its strategy to counter this challenge with an ideological lens rather than a technical approach. This has caused a quandary for the government because the PKK’s strategy and tactics are more complicated than mere terrorism.

In the beginning, there seemed to be advantages to Turkish governments’ definition of the PKK as a terrorist organization. First, declaring the PKK to be an illegitimate and outlawed terrorist organization helped to garner public support. Second, a fight against mere terrorism can be handled by the police to a great extent, and the military would have only a limited role. Thus, while civil authorities and police were taking part in the fight, the civilian control operations would not be hurt. Unfortunately, the government disregarded some technical realities, choosing to stick to its own definition, and now faces an increasingly serious security meltdown.

However, the PKK is still clinging to a protracted political and military revolutionary strategy by creating a parallel state apparatus with the aim of controlling the Kurds in the region. It attacks for this reason. However, the government’s definition of terrorism prevents it from reacting to the strategy with the necessary response.

The provision of security, which is the primary duty of the government, is currently under threat. The PKK can organize terrorist attacks and street revolts as well as advanced guerilla operations. In some regions, the PKK has even seized the initiative and eroded the authority of the government. As a result, the people living in the region might accept the PKK as a more active power than the government.

Although the government’s strong grip over the media and its communication strategy partially shapes the evaluation of the PKK problem, this is not sustainable. We have to acknowledge that without providing security, other economic, social and diplomatic tools will not yield any results.


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dogan kemal ileri

8/24/2012 8:33:01 AM

Don't be so arrogant @Shah Hamdan.Have you not heard of a war to end wars? @Ismail Hijazi is almost 100% right in his analysis exept you must always leave a door open for peace diplomatically.The PKK are on their last leg which explains why they are on a suicide mission from what I can see which is why we must step up the anti and destroy them for once and for all.I am still waiting for the government to deport the traitor BDP members who were kissing and hugging PKK killers in public.

Tayyar Abi

8/24/2012 8:29:37 AM

Shah Hamdan is right here. Government forces must be tougher not more accomadating. Including getting tough on these street punks throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks. Round them up and put them in a hard time jail for a good long while. Make the punishment and crackdown severe enough that they will think twice about such anarchy and evil.

Paul Henry

8/23/2012 9:01:17 PM

It was a well prepared paper for getting to comprehend the lenght of terrorism in Turkey. The last point we have come is result from the wrong policies not only in the last decade bu also in the 1980's which is emerging years of PKK. It is obviously seen that there is no movement which have not been able to successful without getting public support. The kurdish people unfortunately were scared by terrorists and have to help them in the region. There must be no mercy against terrorists.


8/23/2012 6:43:28 PM

“negotiating with politicians and fighting terrorism” works when the two are not one and the same. In Turkey, one can not tell one from the other. A bigger problem is the complete failure of AKP in protecting our borders, our lives, our country and our dignity from constant attacks inside and outside. Turkey has become the door mat of every two-bit player in the region. When will AKP take some responsibility?

Shah Hamdan

8/23/2012 3:54:58 PM

Only insane talk of wars.

Ismail Hijazi

8/23/2012 2:43:10 PM

The pkk terrorists and their supporters are not looking for a solution to this conflict, they are out to fight a war and win it. They count on support from the enemies of Turkey such as Iran, Alawites regim in Syria, and others. There is nothing to talk about with an enemy who is out to destroy us and make a country for themselves from our land. I firmly believe that the only solution to this conflict is a military one ...we destroy them and stop them from accomplishing their evil goals.
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