Should the threats of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, based in Syria, be put into action, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have a comprehensive action plan consisting of three phases to deal with it.
Turkey is living through unprecedentedly tense days, both internally and externally. The shooting down of a Syrian warplane that was violating Turkey’s border by the Turkish air force coincided with developments regarding the Tomb of Suleiman Shah, a sovereign Turkish enclave in Syria about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from our border. These developments and ISIS threats have been testing the patience of the government for the past week.
The domination of the area around the tomb by ISIS, and its declaration that unless the Turkish flag is not lowered by March 24 ISIS will raze the tomb, increased the tensions.
Actually, these threats were heard before they were made public on March 15 via YouTube. Turkey, which was already taking measures, has stepped them up since March 15.
What will Turkey do with its operational battalion on standby at the border and its air force if ISIS threats become a reality? What is the TSK’s operational plan?
According to information provided by sources, the TSK’s comprehensive plans are ready. Reports talk of three different action plans, according to different scenarios.
Air intervention first
First, the air force would go into action if there is an ISIS attack. Squadrons on standby at Malatya, Merzifon and Diyarbakir air bases would take part. Target coordinates to be attacked were determined long ago. Locations and deployment of ISIS units are known.
According to estimates, our planes would reach the operation area in two minutes and finish their attacks in 1.5 minutes. Therefore, the planes would conclude their operation in a total of 5.5 minutes.
Special forces next
What happens if the air operation did not achieve its objective? The TSK is planning to use its ground forces in such a situation. A special forces battalion on standby at the border would go into action. It would be heliported to the tomb area with Skorsky helicopters, complete the operation and will immediately return to Turkey. We are told that this special forces battalion is equipped with eight to 10 times more firepower and destructive capacity than a regular battalion.
Cobra type helicopters
If the first two stages did not achieve the objective, a third phase would be activated. Cobra-type assault helicopters would rapidly be sent in for a massive intervention. During all phases of the operation, Turkish artillery based on the border would provide nonstop fire support.
1,000 ISIS fighters
At the moment, 500 to 1,000 ISIS militants are believed to be in the area. According to information received, ISIS militants have limited mobility. They have DshK-type heavy machine guns and mortar tubes mounted on pickup trucks. Although they have the military superiority in the area, they are not deployed and move about in military configurations.
The shooting down of the Syrian plane as these plans were developed for the Tomb of Suleiman Shah increased tension in the region. The TSK is uncomfortable being mentioned in domestic political squabbles following the shooting down of the plane.
One of the reasons for this displeasure were the words of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, who yesterday [March 24] said: “The basic question is this. For the person occupying the prime minister’s chair to brag about this incident in political rallies before a statement is issued by the chief of General Staff is extremely ill-advised. Nobody should claim a victory for himself. My biggest worry is the attempt to create the atmosphere for entry of our army to Syria. I particularly warn the chief of staff. He should refrain from getting engaged in such cheap affairs. Syria is not a threat. The whole world knows this.”
Military sources say Syria is warned not to violate the Turkish border even before coming near it. Normally a warning is given when the planes are within five miles, but Turkey has been giving warnings when they are 10 miles away.
The Turkish military is guided by the intention to avoid hot contact as much as possible. All Turkish units, particularly ground forces, have been instructed not to cross the border unless they are forced to.