Sources in Ankara report that, despite the cease-fire declared last year by the Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK, most of which is deployed in northern Iraq, the Turkish government expect forays to resume across the border in the spring, when the snow melts in their Kandil Mountain havens.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources disclose the Turkish government decided not to wait for the spring, but to pre-empt the Kurdish spring offensive. Turkish troops are therefore on the move in the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan, aiming tocapture the PKK’s Kandil mountain strongholds near the borders of southeast Turkey and western Iran.
The move by Prime minister Erdogen and his cabinet was prompted by an intelligence report that the PKK had managed to recruit thousands of fresh fighters during the winter months. They have all been armed and equipped with modern weapons, supplied mostly by Iraqi Kurdish leaders. Sources in Ankara report that the PKK’s fighting force has ballooned as never before to an estimated 10,000 men under arms.
For the Turkish offensive, military leaves have been cancelled for the next three months, indicating preparation for a prolonged campaign, and units already in Iraq have been massively reinforced with additional forces.
Cross-border reconnaissance flights by aircraft and helicopters of the Land Aviation Command in Diyakbakir in South Turkey have been stepped up, especially of the 2nd Tactical Air force Command.
The 2nd and 3rd Armies are poised around the Iraqi border town of Zakho.
Turkish commando units have advanced some 15 kilometers due east into northern Kurdistan, and are deployed at points close to the PKK camps in Haftanin, Sinaht and Pirbela, in northern Iraq’s Kandil mountains.
They are supported by tank units equipped with thermal cameras. Trainloads of armored vehicles have been sighted heading across the border as well as Alpine commando brigades.
New equipment and weapons suited to mountain warfare have been issued to the 7th Corps based at Diyarbakir, especially the 23rd Division Command and the 21st Border Division Command.
A Turkish source told DEBKA-Net-Weekly that Ankara decided not to hold off the anti-PKK campaign any longer although an American delegation is due to arrive early next week. Its intention was to prevent the Turkish military incursion of Iraq, but now sources in Washington and Irbil, report that the US officials will be reduced to trying to persuade the Turkish government to scale its campaign down.