On Friday, hard-line secularist General Işık Koşaner took over the reins of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), replacing General İlker Başbuğ. Koşaner gave a speech at his inauguration as the 27th TSK chief in which he warned of risks in Turkey as ‘extreme nationalism, religious fundamentalism, terrorism and ethnic and sectarian conflicts.’ He also said that security forces are finding it ‘more difficult day by day to distinguish the innocent people from terrorists’, blaming freedoms provided by current laws.
He outlined four issues that he expects to focus on during his three-year stint as Chief of General Staff. They are:
1. Taking effective legal measures against any initiative to build a second structure in the country,
2. Ensuring that Baghdad and the KRG take measures against the PKK based in the Kurdistan Region,
3. Preventing the support provided to the PKK and its members by some European countries, and
4. Continuing to give the TSK authorisation to launch military strikes at PKK bases in Kurdistan Region.
The Hürriyet suggested that these goals are in line with what his predecessors have stated. To some extent they are, but they also seem a bit harsher, more hard-line nationalist in tone.
The first of Koşaner’s goals clearly refers to recent calls for autonomy by the BDP and the army’s desire to protect the hallowed indivisibility of the country. General Koşaner mentioned this on Friday saying that the TSK would continue to protect the nation-state, unitary and secular state structuring.
The third goal is in reference to Ankara’s push to coerce European allies to shut down all Kurdish cultural organisations and media outlets across Europe. Ankara has been particularly aggressive in its fight to close the international Kurdish satellite station ROJ-TV, based in Denmark, which it refers to as a ‘mouthpiece of terror.’
Really though, what does the TSK have to do with the first three goals anyway? Perhaps for goal three it is pressure through NATO on European NATO partners.
But is goal number two an implied threat aimed at Baghdad and Hewlêr (Erbil)? Will non-compliance lead to number four? Or rather, more of number four?
With the US in retreat, and Turkey’s continued high-priority arms procurement, more cross-border attacks into the Kurdistan Region are a certainty. A recent Financial Times article stated that ‘Ankara wants to buy American drone aircraft – such as the missile-bearing Reaper – to attack the Kurdish separatist PKK after the US military pulls out of Iraq at the end of 2011.’
A substantial chunk of Turkey’s defence procurement spending is devoted to systems mainly designed for its asymmetric warfare campaign against the PKK.
In addition to missile-bearing Reaper drones, other items Turkey seeks include 100 F-35 fighters, at least 20 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, 50 T-129 attack helicopters, hundreds of utility helicopters, thousands of armoured vehicles, and border security surveillance systems.
It is clear that the military cannot tolerate the thought of Kurdish freedoms of any kind, whether in Turkey, elsewhere in the Middle East, or in Europe. The TSK, in conjunction with the state, will continue on its path of armed repression. What is most troubling is what will happen with new, unimpeded Turkish military incursions into the KRG-controlled areas after 2011.
Enginsoy, Ümit. Turkey looks to continue arms procurement despite questions. Hürriyet Daily News, 17 August 2010.
Korkut, Tolga. Işık Koşaner new Chief of General Staff. Bianet, 27 August 2010.
New Turkish military chief calls for fight against autonomy. Hürriyet Daily News, 29 August 2010.