The Turkish military has wrapped up a cross-border operation in northern Iraq to hunt down outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said yesterday.
“The operation in the Kazan Valley [in northern Iraq], launched following the Çukurca attack, has come to an end. But our routine struggle against terrorism is continuing,” Yılmaz told reporters.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, who rushed to the border district of Çukurca after the PKK killed 24 soldiers in eight simultaneous attacks on Oct. 19, has returned to Ankara, Yılmaz added.
Meanwhile, an ANKA drone, the large locally developed unmanned surveillance aircraft which has been haunted by technical hitches, will become operational in the second half of 2012, the minister said.
Yılmaz spoke shortly before the National Security Council (MGK) met to discuss measures to curb escalating violence in the southeast under President Abdullah Gül’s chairmanship.
A total of about 10,000 elite troops were involved in a massive offensive launched in the wake of the Çukurca attacks. The military has said the offensive included cross-border operations at locations across the border.
In a related development, a U.S delegation, led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow, held talks in Ankara yesterday with officials from the foreign and defense ministries, as well as the military, to discuss measures against the PKK and the impact on regional security from the looming U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.
Turkey’s main request from the United States is the deployment of a fleet of Predator drones to the İncirlik base in southern Anatolia, a continuation of their surveillance along the Iraqi-Turkish border to trace PKK militants and the relocation of some high-technology devices that Turkey could use against the militant group.
“The U.S. has announced it will pull its troops out of Iraq at the end of this year. We have so many legitimate questions and demands from them, like the reallocation of some of their military equipment,” a senior Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News on Oct. 26. “We will therefore discuss these issues to the greatest extent possible.”
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the U.S.