Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz has announced that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have carried out 55 cross-border operations into northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorist organization and killed or captured about 500 terrorists since the start of 2012.
The PKK has begun to lose power in the eastern and southeastern regions of Turkey, where it was very active, as it is receiving less support from the people who live in these regions than before. Apart from the shift in attitudes from locals, the Turkish military's recent successful operations against the terrorist organization have also played a crucial role in the weakening of the PKK.
Responding to a parliamentary question filed by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Kütahya deputy Alim Işık on Sunday concerning the fight being carried out against the PKK outside Turkish borders, Defense Minister Yılmaz said the Turkish military had engaged in 55 ground operations or air strikes in northern Iraq, where the main camps of the PKK terrorist organization are located. The minister stated that between 420 and 427 PKK terrorists were killed, injured or captured during the operations.
The latest of the cross-border operations took place when Turkish F-16 warplanes pounded bombs on PKK targets in northern Iraq close to the border with Iran over the weekend, sources said. Turkish fighter jets bombed PKK shelters, anti-aircraft batteries, communication and command centers in the Kandil Mountains, the PKK's stronghold in Iraq, two days in a row. Local sources noted that PKK camps such as Zap, Metina, Haftanin, Avashin and Chemcho were those heavily targeted.
Commenting also on the intense operations being carried out in Şemdinli, a district of the southeastern province of Hakkari, Yılmaz said that apart from existing security forces serving in the district, regional reinforcement units are also being referred to the region.
The success of the TSK in 2012 is attributed to the success of the new strategy that was adopted at the beginning of 2012. The TSK gave up its defense-based military fight and switched to offensive tactics after the PKK attempted to kick-start an uprising in Şemdinli, similar to the Arab Spring uprisings in Middle Eastern countries.
The PKK failed to achieve its goals in southeast Turkey thanks to a successful large-scale military offensive in the region; it appears that a significant portion of terrorists who were sent from the main PKK camps in northern Iraq to Şemdinli to start the uprising were killed by the military. The military operations carried out in the region were backed also by military air strikes.
As the new strategy commits a continuous presence of military troops in rural areas of the region, PKK terrorists are less likely to leave their bases there and carry out terrorist attacks in residential areas. Instead of bomb attacks, the PKK has begun to stage attacks such as kidnapping locals, primarily teachers, stopping cars on roads and staging attacks on schools, all of which have drawn strong reactions from local residents.