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Oytun ORHAN: Turkey’s Counterterrorism Strategy: Turkey’s Fight Against PKK and ISIS in Syria and Iraq
September 12,2019   By:
Turkey’s Counterterrorism Strategy: Turkey’s Fight Against PKK and ISIS in Syria and Iraq
 
Oytun ORHAN
 
Turkey
 
Abstract: Turkey has suffered from ethno-nationalist terrorism of the PKK since 1984. For three decades, Turkey’s terrorist threat has been viewed largely through the lens of PKK threat. Yet new hazards have emerged, primarily as a result of the civil war which was erupted in Syria after 2011. Increasing destruction of the Syrian state contributes to new terrorist threats against Turkey, forcing Ankara to recalibrate its security and counterterrorism policies. The threat to Turkey’s southern regions increases the longer the war in Syria continues. In that context Turkey started to face with new threats which are YPG (PKK’s Syria branch), ISIS (and other al-Qaeda related organizations). 
 
Depending on the changing nature of the Syrian conflict, Turkey started to adopt its Syria policy on the basis of new realities in Syria. Changing dynamics in Syria are; loss of state authority on borders, rise of non-state actors and terror organizations in the civil war, rise of radicalism, participation of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria civil war from all over the world and finally the cross-border mass migration movements. Depending on that Turkey started to apply a more security-oriented Syria policy to eliminate or at least minimize listed security threats. In that context Turkey’s priorities in Syria had become, fight against terrorism, border security and preventing mass migration movements.
 
Especially the rise of two terrorist organizations, YPG/PKK and ISIS on southern borders of Turkey and unilateral sovereignty claims of those organizations in north Syria led Turkey to take some counter measures. In that regard it is seen that Turkey is applying a new concept in its fight against terrorism. The main elements of this new strategy are; fighting terrorism in its origins, pro-active approach, continuous struggle, targeting high-level terrorists. In that context there are three battlefields for Turkey. Besides the fight against PKK and ISIS inside its own territory, Turkey started to be active on Syria and Iraq territories. “2018 Decisiveness Operation” and “2019 Operation Claw” are the examples of Turkey’s efforts on Iraq territory. With that operations Turkey manages to delink the geographical link between Turkey and Qandil Mountains which is PKK’s main headquarter and minimizing the ability to PKK penetrate into Turkish territory from northern Iraq. In Syria, Turkey conducted two cross border operations to eliminate the territorial control of two terrorist organizations namely ISIS and YPG/PKK. In 2016 Turkey conducted “Operation Euphrates Shield” against ISIS and in early 2018 “Operation Olive Branch” against YPG/PKK in northern Syria. With these consecutive operations Turkey ended the bordership with terror organizations. 
 
This paper examines the evolution of Turkey’s counterterror strategies depending on the emerging security threats from Syria and Iraq and how the Turkish state deals with those threats.
 
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