Monday, June 21, 2010

New Security Measures?

At a security summit called by President Gul in response to the attacks over the weekend, government and military officials announced that "short and medium-term solutions," in contrast to "daily and temporary solutions," would be found in order to address perceived intelligence failures.

A statement after the meeting announced that military and intelligence personnel in the southeast will be restructured and that greater effots will be made to attain inteligence from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the United States. Importantly, sweeping security measures associated with a declaration of a state of emergency (OHAL) in the southeast were not brought up, and firmly rejected by Chief of General Staff Ilker Basbug, who did not attend the summit, but addressed the violence and the military response in a speech delivered in Canakkale.

Prime Minister Erdogan, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul and Interior Minister Besir Atalay, as well as senior military commanders and the head of the intelligence agency, participated in the meeting. From Hurriyet Daily News:
The threefold anti-terror strategy announced Monday will see Turkey review current operations, intensify cooperation with neighboring countries and work to boost the nation’s morale while psychologically weakening terrorist groups.

The government’s announcement, however, was not met with full support from opposition parties, which called such “daily and temporary measures” insufficient to stop the bloodshed.

“The fight against terror was widely assessed and in light of recent developments, additional short- and mid-term measures were decided to be taken,” read a written statement issued following a security summit chaired Monday by President Abdullah Gül with the participation of top civil and military officials, including the heads of the intelligence service and the newly established civilian anti-terror unit.

Twelve troops died over the weekend in clashes with the PKK, largely as a result of the outlawed group’s assault on a military outpost in the Şemdinli district of Hakkari province. Forty-six Turkish troops have been killed in the last two months, prompting renewed concerns about the threat the PKK poses to the country.

Participants in the summit agreed to review the intelligence-gathering operations and structure of the military personnel serving in the country’s Southeast, where the PKK is very active. This decision was seen as an acknowledgement that security officials are aware of the lack of information on the moves of terrorist groups, though the military and the National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, have denied allegations of the existence of such gaps.

The military has also been criticized for sending new recruits to a region where the fight against the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, requires more expertise. Military experts suggested deploying only the best troops to the region and strengthening the military outposts in the area

The second part of the new strategy calls for intensifying coordination with neighboring countries and others related to the fight against the PKK, a change that is likely to bring more talks with Iraq and especially Massoud Barzani, the head of the Regional Kurdish Administration in northern Iraq. During his landmark visit to Turkey in early June, Barzani was given strong evidence and information on the PKK’s moves in his region. Though some progress has been observed, Turkish diplomats said they are still far from satisfied with Barzani’s support for anti-terrorism efforts.

The subject is also expected to be part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s likely meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during the G-20 summit in Toronto on June 26 and 27. “The joint fight against terror will be on our agenda if this meeting is set,” a diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday.

Before relations soured following Israel’s attack on a Gazi-bound aid flotilla, Turkey received crucial support from Israel in its fight against the PKK and the Turkish military still uses Israeli-made drones to provide intelligence about the terrorist group.

The third part of the strategy calls for a solid psychological “war” to keep up the nation’s morale without giving courage to the terrorists through press headlines. “The media should be more sensitive in informing the public opinion,” the statement issued Monday said.

According to government sources, the meeting Monday will be followed by others to review the state of the fight against the PKK, and will be accompanied by meetings with opposition parties to try and secure the entire country’s support.
Among those critical of the military response is AKP parliament speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin, who said over the weekend that the parliament had a responsibility to exercise review over the military and that he was waiting for an adequate explanation of what happened at Hakkari.

After the summit, Gul also met with opposition leaders. CHP leader Kemal Kilicaroglu repeated his calls for economic solutions to the conflict, again eschewing any discussion of Kurdish demands on the cultural/minority rights front, while MHP leader Devlet Bahceli used the attacks to call for total annihilation for the PKK.

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