The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) carried out a suicide attack on the headquarters of Turkey’s national security directorate in Ankara on Sunday. Does the violence mark a shift in the group’s strategy that can imperil the military partnership between its Syrian Kurdish franchise and the United States?
The issue gained fresh urgency as Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed pledges hours after the strike to establish a security belt “beyond our southern borders” that would be “at least 30 kilometers deep.”
Turkey insists that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the United States’ top ally in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), poses a national security threat because its lead component known as the People’s Defense Units (YPG) is closely linked to the PKK. Armed with such justification, Turkey has launched multiple ground offensives against the SDF, which occupies large chunks of northeastern Syria that were under Kurdish control and notionally under US or Russian protection, and keeps threatening to do so again.
On Sunday, Turkey carried out a fresh wave of airstrikes on the PKK’s headquarters in the Qandil Mountains separating Iran from Iraq, and separate drone strikes on suspected PKK operatives in Qamishli in northeast Syria.