No military solution to Kurdish problem

No military solution to Kurdish problem

Please have another look at the picture on our front page. Out of 35 dead bodies wrapped up in blankets, 28 carry the same surname of Encü.

They were killed while crossing the Iraqi-Turkish border on the night of Dec. 28 in an “operational mistake” as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) spokesman Hüseyin Çelik described it yesterday.

They belong to the same family from the nearby village of Ortasu in Şırnak province. All of them are of Kurdish origin; some of them are village guards commissioned to fight on the government side against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They were “mistaken” as possible PKK militants crossing the border to attack a Turkish target (as was done a number of times before) and shot by F-16 fighter planes upon electronic intelligence provided by the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) run by U.S. operators in the İncirlik NATO base near Adana, southern Turkey.

The members of Encü family were involved in small scale smuggling business for their living it appears; cheap diesel fuel and cigarettes from Iraq carried through narrow mountain passes by mules. It also appears that local military and police there were simply turning a blind eye to their smuggling, since they are on the government side and more importantly, because the local authorities knew that there is simply no other work to do because of the heavy security situation for the last three decades.

Mules are also used by the PKK to transport heavy weaponry from their bases in Iraq into Turkey to be used in their attacks; anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine guns, mortars, etc. The Turkish army has been criticized by the media and even by some government members in the past for not making efficient use of the UAVs after failing to detect and react properly to arms transportation which was followed by bloody raids by the PKK.

For the last year or so, Turkish officials have been expressing satisfaction with the use of UAVs in the fight against the PKK. The UAVs were Israeli-made Herons until the Flotilla crisis; now U.S.-made Predators rebased from Iraq during the evacuation of U.S. troops.

After slowing down in the pace of democratic reforms, a 50 percent election victory, the failing of secret talks with the PKK and maintaining more control over the military, the government hardened its stance and started to give priority to putting the PKK under more military pressure. Interior Minister Irdis Naim Şahin told reporters only last week that the struggle against the PKK had successful gains and everything was under government control, including the actions of the military.

And ignoring the devastating failures of the UAV’s in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in operational mistakes in which wedding ceremonies, innocent villagers and even friendly soldiers were killed, the intelligence provided by the UAVs became a major asset in government’s aim to crush the PKK by military means to open the way for a solution to Kurdish problem.

The security dimension of the Kurdish problem is something you cannot avoid, but to rely on security measures in trying to solve a problem having political, ethnical, social and economic origin and depending on questionable methods could cost dearly, as in the last case.