Within hours after US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged Turkey to withdraw its t roops form northern Iraq where they are battling Kurdish rebels, the General Staff announced, “the goals of the operation have been reached and the units returned to their bases as of the morning of Feb. 29.” President Bush had emphasized the previous day the importance of a limited operation and the importance of withdrawing. Turkey’s General Staff insists foreign pressure played no role in the decision to have troops return to their homeland. “The beginning and the end of the operation has been determined by us out of military reasons and needs. Any foreign influence did not play a role in the Turkish Armed Forces’ decision.”
After several days of fighting, Turkey estimates about 240 Kurdish rebels are dead at a cost of 27 of their own soldiers. Dozens of terrrist hideouts and bases were destroyed in an effort to make clear to the PKK that northern Iraq was no longer a safe haven.
The real question is whether Turkey has dealt with its Kurdish issue. Military operations will damage an opponent, but, unless followed up by economic, social and political programs, the effect will be limited.
It is pleasant hearing from President Bush he believes in “limited” military operations. Hopefully, he will take his own advice and pursue a similar policy in Iraq.