In Turkey, there is a big choir of groups demanding that the Turkish army should enter Kandil in the aftermath of every attack from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Kandil is located in northern Iraq, and is depicted by journalist Avni Özgürel, who recently visited the PKK camps there, as follows: “The place called Kandil is an area of 1,000 square kilometers. There are villages inhabited by local people. It is a geography that starts from the common border with Syria and stretches to the border with Iran and it has a width of 12 kilometers. This 1,000-square-kilometer area is controlled by the PKK. There are about 5,000 armed militants in Kandil. The number of such militants in Turkey is about 3,000.”
From Özel’s response, one can get the impression that he was implying that it is not easy to enter Kandil. It is easy to obtain a state-wide resolution to do so. The National Security Council (MGK) may pass such a decision. The government has already been empowered by Parliament to send troops outside the country. But, will the US approve of such a move? It may not. In the final analysis, a Turkish military operation against the Kandil will be a campaign to destroy 3,000-4,000 Kurds. The Kurdish government in northern Iraq does not want to be in a position to endorse the destruction of Kurds. And the US will not be inclined to burn bridges with the Kurdish government.
Such an operation will be perceived as a collective extermination of Kurds and it will create trauma inside Turkey as well. Such a move will trigger a process that will lead to the blocking of the solution to the Kurdish issue.
Also, the third prerequisite voiced by Chief of General Staff is equally important. Will the public be ready for potentially high losses? For more than 25 years, the security-oriented interventions have failed to be productive. The most important factor in this was the delegation of counterterrorism to the armed forces. Although it was supposed to fight external enemies, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had to deal with counterterrorism, which in turn had a negative impact on politicians. Most of our martyrs came from the ramshackle barracks that were hit by terrorist attacks. Every new coffin of a martyr wrapped with flags added to the division between Turks and Kurds. Yet the gravest errors in counterterrorism were made during the time of martial law and the state of emergency orchestrated by the TSK.
Governments could not exert any control or supervision over the counterterrorism efforts. During those uncontrolled periods, politically motivated murders were committed sponsored by Ergenekon, a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government, and the PKK. Many people and groups gained illicit income from human trafficking and drug smuggling.
Therefore, there are things we must do before entering Kandil:
1. The government must take the initiative. 2. The rule of law must be safeguarded in all counterterrorism efforts. 3. The military outposts that are most vulnerable to attacks must be urgently overhauled by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ). 4. Privates or enlisted specialists should not be deployed to attack-intensive regions. The private soldiers who are trained only on the most basic combat skills should not be employed in counterterrorism. 5. Professional units and specially trained soldiers/police officers must be assigned at once. 6. State-of-the-art technology must be employed for intelligence. Our scientists and engineers must work on developing thermal cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles to be used in counterterrorism. How can it be that Turkey does not have any other choice than Israel? 7. Lack of coordination among intelligence units must be eliminated. 8. Everything must be done to assess the incoming intelligence reports and to respond swiftly. 9. No military unit, battalion or outpost should be left vulnerable to attacks.
The Chief of General Staff’s approach gives us a hint about a solution. Terrorism is unproductive. The PKK, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) must accept this. Those who think they can solve the Kurdish issue by bringing the state, nation and security forces to their knees will never be able to do this. Calling on Kurdish citizens to distance themselves from terrorism and terrorists, Özel has made one of most important moves of recent times.
Those who fail to see the state’s and the people’s resolution will be doomed to lose.