Opposition skeptical about professional army against terror

July 16, 2010, Friday/ 17:05:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has begun to meet with leaders of opposition parties to discuss the government's counterterrorism plans, which includes building a professional army, but opposition members have evinced a critical stance.

In his meeting with Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Masum Türker yesterday, Erdoğan explained the government's plan to fight terrorism under four main headings. Erdoğan explained that the government intended to implement its professional army project, which includes having trained professional units protect the borders. According to the plan, these units would comprise soldiers who would protect the border and patrol the mountains for five to 10 years, after which they would receive compensation and be given a job in the public sector.

Türker offered recommendations to the government, noting that it is very important to ensure that any future professional army does not overstep the law when carrying out its duties. "Formations similar to the Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counterterrorism Organization [JİTEM] should not be allowed," he said.

After details of the meeting between Erdoğan and Türker were disclosed, journalists asked Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül, who was welcoming Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar, to comment on plans to build a professional army.

"The General Staff is working on this project. I have not received the General Staff's plans, but our ministry is working on the legal aspects," Gönül said, noting that they are trying to figure out if they can resolve the issue with current legislation or if new legislation will be needed. "As for the military aspect, such as how they will be formed, how they will be trained, how long it will take us to train them and in what institutions they will be trained, these are matters that the General Staff is working on," the minister said. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman Mehmet Şandır said the prime minister appears confused when it comes to building a private army to fight terrorism and that he was confusing the public as well.

Noting that the EU had wanted to participate in border inspections in Turkey's south on the day of Nov. 3, 2005, when negotiations first started, Şandır said: "Egemen Bağış used the army setup in America to ensure security between the US and Mexico as an example and mentioned building a professional army to counter terrorism in Turkey. Then on May 26, 2010, the prime minister's circular on protecting the border with professional units was published in the Official Gazette. This is an EU project." Noting that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have 25 years of experience in counterterrorism, Şandır said the prime minister was making this kind of proposal at an unfortunate time because the government had not taken the necessary steps to counter terrorism and because the political determination to fight terrorism had not been shown.

Noting that they want all necessary steps to fight terrorism and to end terrorist attacks to be taken, Şandır said: “We want Turkey to take the necessary action against separatist terrorism using its own resources. We want a strategic plan of precautionary measures to be prepared, an effective deterrent policy to be developed and, if necessary, temporary security areas to be developed in the north of Iraq by way of a land operation.

“We request that effective measures be taken against institutions and states that support ethnic terrorism from abroad and a state of emergency to be declared to be able to cut off the domestic legs of separatist terrorism.

“We requested that the political ruling power give up its Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK] initiative and put forward a determined stance in fighting terrorism. We presented all this to the president. “Without fulfilling these demands, Turkey's efforts to build a professional army outside of the TSK and in line with EU demands are inappropriate, insincere and lacking seriousness. The MHP believes Turkey needs to get rid of ethnic separatist terrorism using its own resources and with the support of the TSK.”

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