Ankara: Turkey To Set Up Professional Anti-Terrorism Units


Today’s Zaman
07 October 2008, Tuesday

The government has plans to launch a new strategy in the fight against
terrorism. Under the new plan, only professional teams will fight
terrorists and a temporary security zone in northern Iraq may be set
up along the Iraqi border.

Turkey’s search for a new strategy to fight terrorists of the Kurdistan
Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Southeast has taken a decisive turn
following an attack at the Aktutun military outpost in Hakkari last
Friday in which 15 soldiers were slain. PM Tayyip Erdogan announced
on Saturday that Turkey will implement a new strategy, without giving
any further details.

Prime Minister Erdogan immediately called a meeting of the Higher
Counterterrorism Board (TMYK) after Friday’s attack and consulted
with top representatives from Turkey’s security forces. Yesterday he
met with some of his Cabinet ministers to lay out the structure of
the new strategy, which will be finalized at the next TMYK meeting,
scheduled for Thursday.

The key feature of the new strategy, according to a senior security
official who asked not to be identified, is having professional
troops conduct operations against terrorist organizations. The idea
of establishing a professional army, first proposed in June 2007
by then-Land Forces Commander Gen. Ä°lker BaÅ~_bug, will become a
reality under the new plan, the same source said. A new special
force, initially of 7,000 privates from gendarmerie operation
battalions and ranger brigades, will be deployed in the region as
soon as possible. In the following year, an additional 8,000 will
be recruited to the new force. The recruitment process will be on a
voluntary basis. The minimum salary will be $2,000. In other words,
no longer will unprofessional soldiers deployed in the region after
a short period of basic military training be conducting military
campaigns against terrorism. Conscription soldiers will be acting in
the background as supporting units. The professional units will be
deployed along Turkey’s eastern frontiers, from the Armenian border
to the Syrian border.

A special operation command already established under the National
Police Department will be fortified to protect against potential
urban terrorist attacks. Another possibility, according to the same
source, is that governors of the provinces hit worst by terrorism
will be granted special authorities to allow garrison commanders
to conduct operations against terrorists at any time. However, the
government is not warm to the idea, which is reminiscent of the
Emergency Rule Regions (OHAL), areas placed under martial law in
Turkey’s Southeast that remained so well into the beginning of the
2000s. The military is also demanding certain temporary amendments
to restrictions established in the Criminal Procedures Law. Justice
Minister Mehmet Ali Å~^ahin is expected to brief Prime Minister
Erdogan on the military’s demands. The government is determined not
to step back from the democratizing reforms Turkey has made during
the European Union harmonization process.

One of Turkey’s greatest concerns in fighting terrorism is PKK camps
located in the Zap, Avashin, Hakurk and Basyan regions of northern
Iraq. The government is set to ask northern Iraq to set up temporary
security zones in these areas, where the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK)
will be in charge of ensuring security. President Abdullah Gul is
expected to take up the issue very soon with Iraqi President Jalal

According to this plan, which heavily relies on Iraq’s consent,
Turkish troops will provide security across an area extending 40
kilometers into northern Iraq from the southeastern province of
Hakkari. Large military outposts will be set up along the border,
protected by large steel barriers, not unlike the NATO missions’
posts in Afghanistan. The government is also determined to deal with
European countries, which have been inactive over the sale of arms
to the PKK, which usually gets its weapons from Europe.

The TMYK determined that a delay in the delivery of Heron unmanned
air vehicles (UAVs) ordered from Israel has also caused difficulties
in obtaining intelligence in northern Iraq. Turkey will work to speed
up the delivery process to ensure enhanced intelligence gathering in
the region.


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