Turkey revises anti-PKK strategy

Turkey revises anti-PKK strategy

It would not be an exaggeration to describe today’s National Security Board (MGK) meeting as one of the most significant of recent times, considering the council will revise Turkey’s counter-terrorism strategies from top to bottom. Indeed, it will also examine the current balance between democracy and security.

Despite the fact Turkey has been fighting against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the last quarter century, it is a common understanding it failed to adopt a contemporary counter-terrorism strategy. The rise in terror acts and casualties over the years, even though the Army and police are better equipped and have better intelligence, just proves the inefficiency of existing policies. 

That was the reason the government restructured the Undersecretariat of Public Order and Security under a career diplomat, which was tasked to bring about a new and effective counter-terrorism policy. Political responsibility is on the shoulders of Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who is aware this fight could only be won if democratic needs are not underestimated. 

Countries experienced in counter-terrorism apply the “disarmament-demobilization-reintegration” (DDR) formula, the ABC of counter-terrorism. A Turkish model based on this formula could be a good starting point, but of course it requires a strong political engagement. 

For many, the new charter will be one of the most important tools. Ankara has clearly understood that it will not make progress in ending the terror problem if it drags its feet in pledging more rights to Kurds. In this sense, the new constitution is very important and the message conveyed by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç that Kurds will be decorated with full rights is seen as part of this understanding. 

In addition, a new democratic package is being drafted in coordination with Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay and the Undersecretariat of the Public Order and Security. Atalay announced the package aimed at expanding freedom of thought and expression that does not contain violence. 

On the other hand, the Army and the police will continue with military operations, especially within Turkish territories. As a senior government member stated a few days ago, “the purpose was to eradicate the command and logistics centers of the PKK in Turkey in a move enabling the prevention of future attacks.” This also aims at cutting channels between local bases of the PKK with the main ones in northern Iraq. One should not expect a change in Ankara’s military operations against the PKK and its urban structure, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK).

Apart from the democracy-security angle, however, the government is also planning to put emphasis on an “effective and contributive dialogue” with different Kurdish segments, including the senior PKK members. 

A more orchestrated effort is seemingly being developed in Ankara, but its success equally depends on how the chaos in Iraq and Syria affects Turkey’s fight against terror.