The information and assessments that Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] provided to the final meeting of the Wise Men commission two days ago on the first phase of the peace process with the Kurds were not as positive as expected.
Erdogan’s contradiction of the PKK-BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) declarations that the first phase of the process is not yet done, and that only about 15% of PKK armed elements have actually left Turkey, perhaps surprised some members of the commission. The information Erdogan offered and his assessment showed that contrary to PKK-BDP claims, the first phase is not yet over.
Information supplied to Erdogan by civilian and military intelligence units did not tally with the statements coming out of the PKK’s Kandil Mountains command. There is no doubt Chief of General Staff Necdet Ozel, who met with the prime minister before his meeting with the commission, had briefed Erdogan on the field situation. From my contacts yesterday about the first phase, I can summarize some of the findings of the intelligence services.
Withdrawal is slow
According to intelligence reports, despite suitable conditions on the ground, the withdrawal of PKK groups from Turkey is proceeding slower than envisaged. Although they are trying create an image of rapid withdrawal by releasing photographs of some units which have already crossed into Iraq, the vast majority of armed PKK militants are still in Turkey. Security officials say the withdrawal is still at the very beginning and contrary to the “we are now at the second phase” remarks, not even half of the first phase is completed.
Incidents in June
In June there have been many incidents involving the PKK raiding villages and work sites, blocking roads, burning vehicles, carrying out abductions, collecting money from villages, confiscating cellular telephones, etc. The party carried out these acts in Diyarbakir-Lice, Hakkari-Yuksekova, Van-Ozalp, Mus, Bingol-Yayladere and Sirnak areas. But there weren’t any major clashes that could affect the process. With the sensible approach of the governors, all of these incidents — which didn’t cause any fatalities — were investigated, but no military responses were carried out.
Meaning of Cizre photos
The graduation ceremony at Cizre, when uniformed PKK militants were commissioned as the PKK’s “law and order organization” and then their stopping traffic to check IDs, led to reactions. It was learned that the PKK repeated the same action also in Hakkari by recruiting 13- to 16-year-old Kurds and informing their families that these youngsters will be serving as policemen after some training. Such PKK acts are designed to indoctrinate the public and the ceremonies are organized as proof that the PKK is creating its own police forces. These youngsters were then transferred to northern Iraq.
Firing from the Syrian border
Firing on Turkish soldiers by groups from Syria, sometimes riding horses, under the guise of being refugees, lasted about 20 days. The Turkish side found out that that there were PKK-PYD militants in these groups who used it as cover to infiltrate Turkey. Firing on Turkish soldiers was meant to provoke Turkish soldiers to enter Syria.
Firing on the commanders’ helicopter
Opening fire on a helicopter carrying two top commanders of the region is under investigation. The attack that resulted in the impact of one round on the helicopter was not seen as a planned operation. The assessment is that a PKK group in the region opened fire without knowing who was in the helicopters.
Investigations of the abduction of the chief engineer in charge of construction of a military outpost and burning of his vehicle, raids against some villages and work sites are also under investigation. A Turkish security unit learned that some of these acts were carried out by the PKK, some by other organizations cooperating with the PKK and some on individual initiative. One possibility is that the latest attacks were carried out by non-PKK groups opposing the peace process.
The process won’t be disrupted
We understand that these actions have not changed the government’s determination to continue with the peace process, but are seen as affecting the level of confidence. These kinds of processes have ups and downs in all parts of the globe but nevertheless the PKK-BDP front is reminded of the need for their decision makers to act responsibly and not to spread false information that could mislead the public.
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