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April 15, 2012, Sunday

How to understand PKK activities so far

During the winter season, one of the biggest fears Turkish policy-makers had was over the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) threat to intensify the fight in the spring. There were two contradictory ideas among Turkish security institutions.

One was arguing that the PKK would and could be able to intensify the terror in the spring at a level never seen before. The leading institution that defended this view was the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and to some degree, some military units in the southeast region. Thus, MİT was putting pressure on the government and preparing the public to start negotiations with the PKK. Some Justice and Development Party (AKP) policy-makers also shared this view, and thus they, too, were arguing that the AKP government should negotiate with the PKK to reduce the bloodshed that the PKK could potentially cause.

The counter-argument to this was that the PKK lost its logistical capabilities and ability to mobilize people and gather intelligence while we were conducting Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) operations. This group was showing the PKK’s reduced ability to mobilize people and arguing that the PKK would want to intensify the terror but would not able to do that. Thus, this group was arguing that instead of negotiating with the PKK at this stage, we could break the backbone of the PKK, and once the PKK gave up hope, we could sit down and negotiate with this organization. Therefore, this group was arguing that instead of engaging in nonsense negotiation debates since the PKK does not want to lay down its arms anyway, the government should focus on counterterrorism strategies while maintaining the democratic rights of ordinary Kurdish people, and stop the PKK’s ability to spread bloodshed and convince this organization that it is not able to conduct its attacks whenever and wherever they want to attack.

This group was arguing that the government forces, with the new technology and a coordinated strategy, could be able to prevent many of the PKK attacks, and the PKK would not able to spread as much violence as it wants to.

Compared to previous years, so far, the PKK has not been able to conduct terror attacks as much as it wants. Unlike previous years, the PKK’s attacks during this time of year have been much reduced. On the other hand, the PKK’s losses in this period have been much greater than in previous years.

Realistically speaking, there could be two reasons for this. First, the government forces this year are much more coordinated than in previous years. The intelligence-sharing between the operational units, military and police is much more sophisticated than in previous years. Coordinated counterterror attacks proved to be much more effective than in previous years as well. Thus, the PKK faces different state forces than in previous years. Whereas in previous years, the interagency rivalries had prevented effective operations against the PKK, this year the rivalries are much reduced than in previous years.

The second reason why the PKK has not been able to conduct operations inside Turkey is because of the Syrian crisis. The PKK has moved many of its units to Syria to help the Bashar al-Assad regime and, in case Assad falls, to prepare a post-Assad regime. Thus, the PKK’s ability to conduct operations inside Turkey has been reduced significantly.

From now on, it seems that the developments in Syria and the willingness of government forces to conduct coordinated counterterrorism operations against the PKK will determine whether Turkey will face a bloody summer this year. My assessment on this is that the PKK will lose its ability as the year goes on. Thus, the PKK will not be able to conduct more operations than they did last year.

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