The TSK and the PKK fight -
In the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), it is the political establishment that determines the role of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) like all other government bodies. For example, according to the political authority, the existence of 6,000 armed militants in Turkey’s mountains and within the borders of a neighboring country and subsistence of active terrorist networks and sympathizers in its cities are just ordinary security problems. The police forces, certain parts of the gendarmerie units and only the TSK units responsible for the border ranging like a strip can overcome this “ordinary security problem.” If the political authority needs, it may temporarily authorize the TSK in exceptional circumstances.
Whenever a PKK attack occurs, the media start immediately criticizing and questioning the TSK, but according to current laws, its authority and responsibilities are limited and simply operational in the fight against the PKK, not necessarily synchronized with the political decision. One cannot say the character and dimension of the threat the TSK is faced with are taken into account when determining its powers and responsibilities.
One can group TSK’s tasks in the fight against the PKK in two categories. First, acting as the government’s advisor in routine bureaucratic procedures and meetings at the National Security Council. In the end it is up to the government whether it would take into account the TSK’s views. At the same time it is the government that determines policies and strategies. Second, the TSK contributes in the fight against the PKK within the limited time and space determined by the laws. In a sense it is a “part-time” and “limited area” incumbent. This part-time and limited contribution could only come into effect if the governor of a concerned province desires so in accordance with the Provincial Administration Act. Otherwise, the TSK has to carry out duties like the police in a narrow geographical strip as specified in the Border Protection Act. In addition to these, the TSK units may use force within the frame of general rules of law and the limits of self-defense in case of an attack.
Consider the following scenario: You are the one-star general of the commando brigade deployed in Siirt. You are commanding 3,000 soldiers, all of them well trained, and taking a walk in the morning on a beautiful day. You just walked a short distance and saw a group of 50 PKK militants all armed and carrying RPGs on top of a close hill facing the barracks. Militants are prying the barracks and soldiers’ movements. Since you are a good newspaper reader you would naturally get anxious. (Because the police and the gendarmerie are not bound to share intelligence with you regarding whether there is a group of militants on the mountains of the city where your troops are deployed. Besides, you commit a crime if you produce intelligence.) You would think that something bad is going to happen. No earthly use of military tactics and strategies that you know can overcome the problem immediately.
According to law, what a general could do in such a case is very limited. If the general is a “responsible citizen,” the law expects him to call the 155 police emergency hotline and ask the police station to send a police patrol team to the region. The one who would decide to send a patrol is the police officer at the other end of the line. On the contrary, if you decide to act on your own accord against the PKK militants, it is very likely that you will live on as a retired general. As in all democracies, in Turkey too, every person or establishment should be criticized and questioned. However, if your policies and strategies are wrong, you should be aware that these wrongs cannot be corrected with tactical responses.