Let Turkey Have Its Turn

by Phil Aubart | 11/5/07 12:19am

Our military is stretched thin. Allies are needed in the war against terror, yet we are turning them down. The United States' opposition to Turkey's planned invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan is hypocritical and rooted in poorly thought out America-first policy.

In recent weeks the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) has increased the number and severity of attacks on the Turkish Army. Soldiers and civilians have been killed and others have been injured. The PKK is a terrorist group; the United States has labeled it as such. The PKK operates out of the border region in Iraqi Kurdistan. In response to the escalated attacks, Turkey has increased troop levels in the region and has conducted air-strikes both within Turkey and Iraq. Seeing that neither the government of this semi-autonomous region of Iraq nor the Baghdad government was doing enough to suppress the terrorist group, Turkey threatened an invasion. This is a natural response to a serious threat to its national security, one that has already resulted in the death of its citizens.

This would be a logical, non-preemptive invasion to root out a terrorist organization from its strongholds. This scenario is akin to one that takes place in Afghanistan and Pakistan. U.S. security forces based in Afghanistan raid terrorist camps in the border region of Pakistan. However, there is a huge difference: Turkey has faced significant international opposition, led by the United States, to its plan. This opposition is clearly hypocritical.

The United States cites a number of reasons for its stance on this issue. There are fears that a Turkish invasion will cause instability in the only currently stable part of Iraq. However, if the incursion onto Iraqi soil is done under strict control and, once the terrorists are rooted out, security can be turned over to local forces, there should be less concern for instability. There need not be an occupation; merely a number of well-planned raids. If Iraqi government and U.S. soldiers will not undertake the task, Turkey should be allowed to do so. The existence of a terrorist group in the region is cause enough for concern over instability. The longer the PKK is allowed to exist relatively unharassed, the bolder it will become in its demands for an independent Kurdistan.

Another fear is that of alienating the Kurds from the United States. It is true that the Kurds are our strongest allies in Iraq today, but outside military aid need not jeopardize that. We need to remember that Turkey is itself one of our strongest allies in the Middle East and by allowing it to suffer unabated terrorist attacks, we are alienating it. If things are controlled well and the planned incursion is transparent enough that the Kurds are reassured that there will be no occupation or unnecessary hardships inflicted on the Kurdish people, there should be no cause for crisis or unrest in the region. The Iraqi government has asked the U.S. forces to stay until security is established, and they trust us enough to know that we will one day leave. They should trust our allies in the same manner. There is a great opportunity here for Turkey to show that it is one of the greatest friends a young, democratic Iraq has.

When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it was partially premised on Saddam Hussein's purported support of terrorism. As our occupation grew longer and the conditions in Iraq deteriorated we were told that if the Army left, Iraq would become a safe haven for terrorists to operate against us and our allies. Allowing terrorists to hide behind the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan would similarly enable that to happen. Our promises of action by ourselves and the Iraqi government are not enough. Terrorists require action, action that Turkey is dying to provide. We seem to have taken on the role of World Police in recent decades. Let's act like it and call in back-up when necessary.

In a war against terror (that's terror in general, not specific terrorist groups) in which the United States has too few allies willing to commit troops, we should be welcoming Turkey into the fold; not creating a double standard. Turkey's commitment of troops and fire-power against a clear terrorist threat should be lauded, not discouraged. There is risk involved, but inaction has its own risks.

Iraq's military is still nascent. It is rare enough that we can find verbal support for our war on terror. Let's take advantage of this offer of military support and encourage Turkey to take on the terrorists on its own terms.