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    Enis Berberoglu: U.S. intelligence and Turkey’s N. Iraq border

    Hürriyet Haber
    05.10.2008 - 13:05 | Son Güncelleme:

    I had spoken with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Tayyip Erdogan during a return flight from the Damascus Summit (Sept. 4) and asked him the following:

    - Are any new measures being taken to discourage people from joining the terror organization and to encourage members in the mountains to come down?


    Before answering the question, Erdogan gave a long speech about the Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP) investment.


    He followed by announcing that a security summit, similar to the emergency meeting held yesterday, would be organized.


    Erdogan then closed by making a couple of vague statements about needing to increase the quality of intelligence received in relation to the terror organization’s movements. I guess we did not understand what he really meant and, what he said was not published in media reports.


    The statement he made came to mind when I was reading news of the terror attack in Aktutun.


    It is clear that intelligence reports may have had word of an upcoming attack…


    We already have details of recent activity, as this is the fifth time that the Aktutun gendarmerie station has been attacked. The Bayraktepe station, at which 15 soldiers were killed in the recent PKK attack, was just one of the security units located in the mountains to protect this region.  In normal circumstances, the Bayraktepe station does not have large numbers of troops stationed there.


    But, troop numbers were strengthened at the Bayraktepe station ahead of the attack, according information given by the General Staff. A gendarmerie Special Forces unit consisting of an estimated 25 soldiers was sent to this hill-top station.


    What is more, a terrorist group, more than 300 hundred strong, is spotted in Iraq just 10 kilometers away from Turkish border before the attack, and a missile strike with the support of four to six helicopters is launched against them.


    As it was a daytime attack, support troops were sent to take part in the fighting at Bayraktepe.


    Despite a special gendarmerie unit and commando unit being rushed to the front-line, it failed to prevent a large number of casualties.


    * * *

    Yes, I agree that the pain of the fifteen killed soldiers is maddening, but when analyzed in the cold light of day, it is also important to learn from this attack:


    1) It is clear that intelligence of terrorists amassing in the northern Iraqi regions of Zap and Avasin was received from the United States. This information led to an earlier strike by the Turkish Air Forces on PKK camps during Ramadan Holiday, preventing a greater number of terrorists gathering.     


    2) Domestic intelligence units also gathered details of possible targets and the military strengthened its support to those sites. A special gendarmerie unit was sent to Bayraktepe.


    3) Military commanders made the accurate and timely decision to send additional units to Bayraktepe to carry out a strike with armed helicopter support.


    Despite these measures being taken, 15 soldiers were killed and two more are still missing.


    I know, when emotions are running high, nobody likes it when statements suggesting that “the situation could have been worse” are made.


    But I will write it anyway: the attack could have been a lot worse.


    * * *


    I wrote this column with the belief and the hope of that the quality of intelligence could be improved; the same hope that the prime minister holds. Still it is clear that the intelligence of terrorist activities can be helpful only to a point.


    True success lies in preventing nearly 300 terrorists from gathering in such numbers just 10 kilometers from the border.


    This can be accomplished by either Iraqi President Jalal Talabani or Massoud Barzani, leader of regional administration in northern Iraq… If not, I do not think the border will be very important anymore.


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