Turkish President Abdullah Gül is seen having lunch with soldiers, flying in a helicopter over army posts near the Iraqi border and receiving briefings from military commanders in a series of photos released by his office on Sunday, from a trip he made to border posts on Friday and Saturday.
Gül inspected the border troops in a previously unannounced visit, which, officials say, is aimed at boosting the morale of soldiers based at army posts near the border, at a time of increased tension between the Turkish military and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel, Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu, Gendarmerie Commander Gen. Bekir Kalyoncu and 2nd Army Corps Commander Gen. Servet Yörük accompanied the president during his visit to the border provinces.
Gül's two-day trip on Friday and Saturday included stops to visit army units in Van, Hakkari, Şırnak and Siirt provinces. During the visit, Gül also spoke with village guards, village heads and citizens in the region, as well as with the wives of commanders serving in the border troops.
Gül arrived in Şırnak on the second day of his visit to the border provinces, and was briefed by commanders at the Şırnak military base. Inspecting the troops and speaking to soldiers, Gül distributed awards to successful army officers. He said he is proud of the soldiers' sacrifice, and expressed gratitude “on behalf of the Turkish people.”
Gül also took a ride in a Turkish-made landmine-proof vehicle called “Kirpi,” and was briefed about the vehicle, Gül later visited 23rd Şırnak Gendarmerie Division Command, was briefed on the command, distributed more awards and had lunch there.
Gül then continued on to the Akrep military base, close to Siirt's Gabar Mountain. Gül walked through all of the base's military installations and was briefed on the region's landscape and the technical capabilities of the base. He also had a brief conversation with troops on duty. Drinking tea prepared for him by the soldiers, Gül asked the soldiers if they like the food served at the base and received a positive response.
Gül then visited the 3rd Siirt Commando Brigade Command, listening to a briefing by commanders.
During his visits, Cobra helicopters accompanied the president and security was heightened at the military bases.
Since August, Turkey's military has been mounting air and artillery strikes on PKK positions in the Kandil mountains and in northern Iraq, in reaction to a string of terrorist attacks. The strikes were ordered after a gap of more than a year, in retaliation for an increase in PKK attacks on security forces inside Turkey.
Turkey's Parliament passed a bill earlier this month extending permission, as it has done several times since 2007, for the Turkish military to mount cross-border operations against PKK members in northern Iraq during the coming year.