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    How can Turkey benefit from Gen Petraeus’ experience?

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD21 July 2011 - Okunma Sayısı: 1511

     

    Last week, Turkey had an important visitor: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state. Her appearance on TV overlooking the Bosphorus with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was quite impressive. This seemed to be a message to the public about the strong cooperation between "the allies." Their agenda was most probably a long one, including the current position of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, the Syrian problem, the anti-Iran missile shield, and ways to rejuvenate the deteriorating relations between Israel and Turkey.

    Another possible topic might be the concerns of the U.S. government regarding the withdrawal of the U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan. Let's not forget Iraq where 20 persons die each day, though it's not a hot news item anymore. Also, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which uses the territories of the Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG, as "a safe haven" must have been another issue at the top of the agenda.

    During Clinton's visit, there were some disturbing developments as well. By the time the conditions were ripe for "nearly perfect" public diplomacy, the Turkish media was forced to focus on another issue, which unfortunately made Clinton's "smiles" and "blue-pant suit" of secondary importance. The latest PKK attack, the chronic headache of Turkey, led to the death of 13 soldiers. As a result, the focal point was again naturally Iraq and the U.S. withdrawal.

    It is significant to note that Clinton did extend her condolences to Turkish society. She stressed that the U.S. government is on Turkey's side in the war on terror. Accordingly, the U.S. froze the assets of the top leaders of the PKK, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan and leaders Remzi Kartal, Sabri Ok and Adem Uzun as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers, or SDNTs, pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). This decision ends their dreams of buying "farm houses" in California after their "retirement." This has become one of the most popular news items in the Turkish media; an example of effective "public diplomacy."

    Shortly after Clinton left Turkey, the new director of the CIA, Gen. David Petraeus, quite famous in Turkey, visited the country. He is best known for his achievements in the field of counter-insurgency in Iraq and his efforts in Afghanistan. In my view, one of the most important characteristics of Petraeus is his capacity to add an intellectual dimension to his professionalism. His contribution to the writing of the "Counterinsurgency Field Manual" shows this capacity.

    If you have a problem like the PKK, this manual offers a crucial perspective to help you broaden your vision. Because the PKK initially conducted "protracted revolutionary warfare" and then showed the typical features of an insurgency, I decided to take this manual seriously and read it. One needs to read Petraeus so as to understand the role of Iraq in this.

    He asserts that "the meaning of the term sanctuary is evolving. Sanctuaries traditionally were physical safe havens, such as base areas, and this form of safe haven still exists[...] [H]istorically, sanctuaries in neighboring countries have provided insurgents places to rebuild and reorganize without fear of counterinsurgent interference," (p.29).

    Petraeus can help us analyze the role of the KRG. I think the U.S. should reread this chapter to better understand Turkey's frustration.

     

     

     

    This commentary was published in Hürriyet Daily News on 21.07.2011

     

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