Niger’s Uranium Industry Threatened by Rebels

Andrew McGregor

July 31, 2007

As the focus of U.S. justifications for its invasion of Iraq and the subsequent “yellowcake” political scandal, both the African country of Niger and its considerable uranium reserves have become well known since 2002. While claims that Niger was supplying uranium to an Iraqi nuclear weapons program have been refuted, there are new concerns that a growing rebellion in Niger’s north might destabilize the country and its uranium industry, now the third largest in the world.

Niger Uranium 1 Fighters of the Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice (MNJ)

The Tuareg-led rebel group, Le Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice (MNJ), also includes a number of disaffected members of the Tubu, Arab, Peul, Hausa and other nomadic or semi-nomadic groups dwelling in northern Niger. Despite unsubstantiated claims that the Tuareg present a critical North African link to a supposed expansion of al-Qaeda operations to the Sahel region, the MNJ rebellion has no apparent Islamist component. The grievances of the MNJ are nearly identical with the causes of past Tuareg revolts—government corruption, underdevelopment, inequitable distribution of wealth, economic marginalization and ethnic discrimination.

The government of President Mamadou Tandja has responded by restricting press freedom, refusing to negotiate with the rebels and dispatching 4,000 troops to the north (Le Republicain [Niamey], July 1). The final move is not without its own dangers, as there are reports of mass desertions from the military to the rebels (Afriquenligne, July 21). Militarization of the northern region has already brought the vital Saharan tourist trade to a crashing halt, with European charter flights into Agadez canceled until December. The government has also reduced fuel supplies to the north, making it difficult for food to find its way to the market. Although the official reason is to prevent fuel theft by the rebels, the government is no doubt hoping that pressure on the food supply will diminish MNJ popularity in the north.

Uranium production in Niger represents 8-10% of the world’s supply (3,400 tons in 2006) and accounts for nearly 70% of the country’s exports. The French discovered uranium in Niger’s Tim Mersoï Basin in 1957, using the metal for its nuclear weapons program. Since then, French uranium concern Areva has developed two major uranium mines at Arlit and Akouta, both in the Agadez region, home of the old pre-colonial Tuareg sultanate. The mines operate as joint ventures with ONAREM (Niger’s state mining concern) and a number of minority interests. Although Niger’s uranium is expensive to produce, it is plentiful—with reserves expected to hold out for several more decades. All Niger uranium is pre-sold to COGEMA (France), ENUSA (Spain) and OURD (Japan). Massive diversions of the metal, such as those claimed by the U.S. administration in 2002, are virtually impossible. The rebellion threatens government plans to double the output of its uranium industry in the next four years to meet a growing demand for nuclear fuels. The cost of uranium has soared from $7 per pound in 2000 to over $130 per pound in 2007. Chinese, Canadian and Indian firms are leading the resulting exploration rush in the Agadez region.

Little of Niger’s wealth in natural resources, which includes other precious metals and petroleum, has reached the people of Niger—recently ranked last in quality of life by a UN development index. Impoverished tent cities, burdened with unemployed Niger citizens seeking work, have developed around foreign mining operations. According to the MNJ, as few as 15% of the jobs are available to locals; they, instead, survive on the crumbs of the foreign-managed facilities. Uranium dust has contaminated pastures and the scarce water sources in northern Niger, and a coal-fired fuel plant provides energy for the mines with few environmental restrictions.

Niger Uranium 2Development of the Ingall region of Agadez, a vital grazing ground for Niger’s pastoralists, is specifically opposed by the MNJ—who expressed their displeasure with China’s efforts in the area by kidnapping an executive of the China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation on July 6 (Xinhua, July 7). Although the worker was later released, all the company’s personnel were withdrawn under military escort to Agadez. According to a MNJ spokesman in Paris, the Chinese are not welcome “because they don’t work with locals, they don’t employ locals, and they respect the environment even less” (Reuters, June 27). The halt in Chinese operations is unlikely to last; China needs fuel for a planned series of nuclear reactors that have been designed to reduce the growing economy’s dependence on coal-fired energy plants. The MNJ claims that the government used fees from exploration permits to buy two Russian Mi-24 helicopter gunships, and it accuses China of providing arms to the Niger military. MNJ leader Aghali ag Alambo states that “We’re not against any firm, be it from China or elsewhere. But we are against companies which supply the national army while that army is directing its force against civilians who are demanding their rights” (Reuters, July 7).

Libya has been accused of supporting the insurrection, likely because of its close ties to Tuareg militants dating back to the Libyan-sponsored Islamic Legion of the 1970s. French uranium miners Areva have also been charged within Niger of supporting the rebel movement, reflecting a common belief in some elements of the ruling class that French sympathies tend to lie with the desert Tuareg rather than the African tribes of the south. Areva denies the charges, pointing to its own financial losses due to rebel activity, including an April 20 attack on an Areva camp that shut down production for a month (Agence France-Presse, April 20). In an effort to quell opposition to the uranium industry, Areva has announced plans to spend over $1 billion on health and environmental concerns in northern Niger (Africast, May 3).

While Areva is moving toward alleviating the impact of its operations, it is yet to be seen whether its concerns will be shared by other foreign operations in northern Niger. Past experience shows that Niger security forces do not have the ability to quash opposition in the area. Unless measures are taken to accommodate the needs of indigenous tribal groups, the risk of heightened radicalization will be unavoidable.

This article first appeared in the July 31, 2007 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Turkey’s Dark War: Counter-Terrorism Strategies for the 21st Century

Andrew McGregor

July 23, 2007

Turkey has experienced a long and painful history of terrorism. During nearly two decades of terrorist attacks and brutal fighting with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), some 35,000 lives were lost. At present, secular Turkey’s moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government faces a resurgence of PKK terrorism as well as new threats from al-Qaeda. In their battle with PKK militants in southeastern Turkey, Turkish troops have suffered casualties almost daily from mines and roadside bombs. At the forefront of the counter-terrorist struggle is Turkey’s General Staff, which sees itself as the protector of Turkey as a secular state. Recently, the General Staff has emphasized the need for Turkey to confront the rising threats from asymmetrical groups, a challenge it refers to as the “Dark War.”

Turkey DarkTurkish Chief of Staff General Yasar Buyukanit (Hurriyet)

The role that Turkey’s generals play in the country’s political life is unfamiliar to most Western states. The generals give speeches suggesting directions for public policy, call for politicians to be prosecuted, robustly defend the nation’s international reputation and persecute any perceived deviation from official Kemalism—the secular political and social movement created in the 1920s by General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as a nationalist response to the implosion of the Ottoman Empire. Opinion polls consistently reveal that the Turkish military remains the most trusted element in Turkish public life, despite a history of coups and political interventions. Experiencing 45 different governments since 1946, many Turks view the military as a powerful force for national stability.

The General Staff’s Criticism of Western Views on Terrorism

In a May 31 address at the Istanbul War Academy, Turkey’s chief of staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, referred to the paradigms of the Cold War as having been replaced in the 21st century with those of a “Dark War,” in which security forces address asymmetrical threats not just through military efforts but in cooperation with “legal, economic, political, sociological and psychological elements.”

Buyukanit’s view is that the war on terrorism of Turkey’s NATO defense partners has become dangerously focused on “religious terrorism,” to the exclusion of all other sources of terrorism. Especially alarming in Turkey’s eyes is “ethnic-nationalist” terrorism of the sort generated by the PKK. The Turkish government has called for greater coordination and cooperation, including a policy of “try or extradite” for fugitive or self-exiled terrorist suspects being harbored by Turkey’s European allies. According to Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, “Freedom of speech of terrorists or shadow organizations must not be used against the right to live of innocents” (Anatolia News Agency, June 14).

The Turkish General Staff fears that Washington harbors intentions of splitting the predominantly Kurdish southeast from the rest of Turkey, a fundamental violation of the Kemalist doctrine of territorial integrity. General Buyukanit is fond of warning that the Turkish armed forces are ready to fight “anyone” intending to divide Turkey. Allegations of U.S. arms shipments to the PKK and the violation of Turkish air space by American F-16 warplanes have sparked suspicions regarding Washington’s aims in northern Iraq. Within the officer corps, there is some sympathy for Russian authoritarianism, and, as trust in Washington declines, a number of Vladimir Putin’s most virulent anti-American remarks have found their way to official Turkish military websites. The growing discomfort of the General Staff with the Western military alliance reflects public opinion in the wake of uncertainty over the real goals of the U.S. “Middle East Project” and French and German obstruction of Turkey’s European Union candidacy.

There is a tendency in Turkish political thought to equate opposition to the Kemalist state with “terrorism,” whether of a material or psychological kind. The sensitivity of the General Staff to this inclination was demonstrated when a NATO military college displayed a U.S.-produced map of the “New Middle East” last year, showing a diminished Turkey side-by-side a newly independent “Kurdistan.” General Buyukanit discussed the matter personally with then-U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace and received an official apology (Today’s Zaman, September 29, 2006).

General Buyukanit is not averse to addressing the Islamist government through the media, reminding the Turkish public that the armed forces are ready to eradicate terrorism when or if the order is issued by the National Assembly. In the past, the Turkish armed forces have been accused of taking extraordinary measures to repress Kurdish nationalism, including torture, civilian massacres, mass displacements and “false-flag” operations designed to discredit the PKK. The General Staff has used its own website to urge a popular mobilization of the people against terrorism, most likely in an attempt to put pressure on the AKP government and the United States (Milliyet, June 9). Since then, the funerals of “martyred” servicemen killed in eastern Turkey have become scenes of political protest, with demonstrators chanting anti-PKK slogans while abusing government ministers who dared to attend (Anatolia News Agency, June 11).

Turkey’s political leaders are in agreement with Buyukanit over the “misleading” religious approach to terrorism. Responding to a May 23 bombing in Istanbul that killed six and wounded more than 100, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan affirmed, “Terror has no religion, ethnicity, homeland or nation” (Anatolia News Agency, May 23). Parliamentary Speaker Bulent Arinc has denounced the “Clash of Civilizations” approach to terrorism that dominates the debate in North America. He says, “We believe terrorism does not have a nation, language or religion and does not have values to which it can be faithful. That is why we are against using religious, ethnic or regional adjectives in definitions of terrorist organizations or terrorism. We are thinking differently from many countries on this issue” (Anatolia News Agency, June 14). The government has received support from Turkey’s religious establishment; according to Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate-General, “No religion can approve violence and terrorism” (Anatolia News Agency, June 14).

Turkey Dark 2General Ergin Saygun (Milliyet)

Deputy chief of the General Staff, General Ergin Saygun, also rejects the concept of “Islamic terror,” explaining that “the West sees almost two billion Muslims as potential terrorists, and this emerges as the biggest obstacle before cooperation…Terrorism is fed by separatist and ethnic movements. And, terrorism which is fed by these sources is threatening global security as much as other types of terrorism.” General Saygun also issued a warning directed at Turkey’s NATO partners, saying, “Those who tolerate terrorism will definitely be harmed by it one day” (Anatolia News Agency, June 1). Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul notes that while democracy should not become a victim of the war on terrorism, “democracy and democratization are not enough to obliterate terrorism” (Anatolia News Agency, June 14). According to Buyukanit, international cooperation on terrorism issues is hindered by an inability to agree on just what constitutes a terrorist act (Anatolia News Agency, July 3).

In addition to the threat from PKK militants, there are signs that al-Qaeda militants are preparing new strikes in Turkey. Eleven al-Qaeda suspects were arrested in Istanbul on May 30, while a further 23 suspects were arrested in the northwestern city of Bursa on June 20 (Anatolia News Agency, May 30, June 20). Interestingly, this is a threat shared by Iraqi Kurdistan, which is increasingly under attack from al-Qaeda terrorists being forced out of central Iraq by the current U.S. offensive. The field commander of al-Qaeda forces in the Hamrin Mountains near Kirkuk is said to be a Kurd named Aso Kirkuki (Aso [Baghdad], June 4). Gunmen of the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam movement have also been reported in the mountains, while others are allegedly assisting al-Qaeda in Mosul and Kirkuk (Chawder [Sulaymaniyya], May 28; Awene [Sulaymaniyya], May 15). Terrorist bombings occurred in May in Erbil, Makhmur and elsewhere, all apparently targeting offices belonging to Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (al-Sharq al-Awsat, May 15). Five al-Qaeda members are awaiting execution in Erbil for attacks carried out in 2005 (Awene [Sulaymaniyya], May 22).

Security Challenges Complicated by Upcoming Elections

Internally, Turkey’s approach to the “Kurdish problem” is immeasurably complicated by the presidential and parliamentary elections coming later this year. There are indications that the Kurdish question is being used as part of a power struggle between the secular Kemalist generals and Erdogan’s AKP.

Prime Minister Erdogan has challenged the United States to match its anti-terrorist rhetoric with action. He asserted, “Turkey from now on expects action instead of empty words. Turkey has always met the requirements of strategic partnership. However, they [the United States] have not assumed their responsibilities yet” (Anatolia News Agency, June 7). The prime minister has suggested a joint Turkish-American-Iraqi operation against the PKK as an alternative to a unilateral Turkish offensive. Lately, Erdogan appears to be backing off from a Turkish attack on northern Iraq in favor of dealing with PKK terrorists within Turkey first. The turnabout suggests that the government’s tough rhetoric on Iraq was at least partly designed to provoke a U.S.-Iraqi intervention against the PKK. Erdogan continues to face strong public pressure to take action against Kurdish insurgents and terrorists. Protests that he cannot act without receiving an official request from the General Staff do not enhance the prime minister’s reputation for decisiveness (Hurriyet, May 26).

If Turkey cannot find satisfaction in its dealings with the United States, a new Turkey-Syria-Russia-Iran axis might emerge to challenge U.S.-Israeli power in the region. With Iran’s Revolutionary Guards engaged in fierce fighting with Kurdish militants on the Iranian/north Iraqi border, the Kurdish insurgency is resulting in shared ground for Turkish and Iranian security interests. For the United States, it is important to retain access to Turkey’s Incirlik airbase for operations in Iraq as well as any projected attack on nuclear facilities in Iran. As General Buyukanit’s “Dark War” diverges from U.S. interests in the Middle East, security relations between these two powerful NATO partners will continue to deteriorate. A U.S.-Turkish confrontation over northern Iraq would have immediate consequences for the entire balance of power in the region.

This article first appeared in the July 23, 2007 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Massoud Barzani Conducting Dangerous Games in Northern Iraq

Andrew McGregor

July 17, 2007

With the Turkish army massing on the border of northern Iraq, the hard-won gains of Iraq’s Kurdish nationalists now face a serious threat. Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the president of Kurdistan since 2005, has adopted a provocative stance as an ally and supporter of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish guerrilla/terrorist movement that infiltrates southeast Turkey from bases in northern Iraq. Barzani, who once cooperated with Turkish forces in cross-border operations designed to eliminate PKK fighters in Iraq, now appears to have reversed his position, allegedly supplying the PKK with weapons, explosives and logistical support.

BarzaniMassoud Barzani

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Barzani’s KDP and the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by current Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani, have moved toward unification of their parallel administrations in Iraqi Kurdistan. In the past, the PUK also aided Turkish incursions against the PKK, recognizing that cross-border ties with Turkey were essential for the economic success of an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Ethnic solidarity with the radical leftist militants of the PKK had little to offer in comparison.

Much of the tension between the Turks and Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) arises from the disputed status of the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk and its surrounding oil fields. The city has a sizable Arab population (largely settled there by Saddam Hussein) and is a traditional center for Iraq’s Turkoman population (ethnically related to the Turks, who act as their patrons). A recent influx of Kurds has created favorable conditions for a proposed referendum to attach Kirkuk to Kurdistan, virtually guaranteeing the success of an independent and newly oil-rich Kurdistan. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is accused by both Sunni and Shiite Iraqis of conniving to transfer Kirkuk to a Kurdish administration in return for Kurdish support for his failing government (New Anatolian, June 16). Such a development is viewed as undesirable in Ankara, where it is feared that such a state would only encourage further Kurdish separatist and terrorist activities in Turkey. Turkey has its own economic interests in Kirkuk; Turkey’s state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) reached an agreement in April with the Anglo-Dutch Shell corporation to develop a pipeline running from Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan (The Times, April 13). At the same time, Barzani stated bluntly that “Turkey is not allowed to intervene in the Kirkuk issue and if it does, we will interfere in Diyarbakır’s issues and other cities in Turkey” (Today’s Zaman, June 19).

Kurds Map(Joe Burgess/NYT)

Barzani’s bold threats of intervention in Turkey resulted in Turkey’s chief of staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, designating Barzani as an additional target of any Turkish operation against PKK bases in northern Iraq (Hurriyet, June 6). In a July 3 television interview, Barzani declared his preference for dialogue with the Turkish government, but warned that “a Turkish operation in Iraq will result in a catastrophe for the whole region, for Turkey, Iraq and everybody else involved. It will ignite a devastating war in the region” (EuroNews, July 3). Ankara is convinced that Barzani’s aggressive attitude is the result of U.S. indulgence.

Accusations have been made asserting that both Barzani and the U.S. military are currently supplying arms to the PKK. Three PKK deserters claimed last month that U.S. armored vehicles were supplying the PKK base at Mount Qandil with M-16 rifles and munitions (Milliyet, July 2). Last week, Turkish Ambassador to the United States Nabi Sensoy suggested that Barzani had supplied U.S.-made arms and explosives to the PKK, adding that Turkey held the United States responsible for the PKK presence in northern Iraq (Today’s Zaman, July 12).

Barzani has fallen afoul of Turkey’s powerful Kemalists, the dominant political and military elite devoted to the idea of a secular, centrally-ruled Turkish nation as developed in the early 20th century by Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Turkish prosecutors have opened an investigation of Barzani based on a complaint made by the Kemalist Thought Association (ADD), charging Barzani with colluding with the PKK in Iraq (Anatolia News Agency, June 18). There are also allegations that Barzani cooperated with U.S. forces in the 2003 Sulaimaniya incident in which U.S. troops detained 11 Turkish Special Forces soldiers and placed bags over their heads (ROJ TV, June 24). The ADD is asking for a freeze on all Turkish assets held by Barzani or his family because Barzani is believed to have considerable business interests in Turkey (Today’s Zaman, June 19).

As the Turkish elections approach later this month, the Kemalist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has taken a firm stance on eliminating the PKK. Speaking recently at the Socialist International meeting in Geneva, CHP leader Deniz Baykal impelled delegates Barzani and al-Talabani to walk out when he declared, “No state tolerates terror on its territory. Iraq is an exception to this” (Hurriyet, July 11). Other Turkish politicians have urged the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) to take economic measures against Barzani’s KRG, including a blockade on Turkish electricity exports to the region and the closure of the vital Habur border gate, the conduit for vital coalition petroleum supplies and a growing cross-border trade (Today’s Zaman, June 27).

Officially, the PUK and Barzani’s KDP are growing closer to a unified command, but tensions between the two parties still exist. Barzani appears to be taking the opportunity to represent himself as the protector of all Kurds, while the position of his Kurdish rival, al-Talabani, prohibits him from making irresponsible, if popular, declarations of support for the PKK. Yet, support for the PKK endangers the success of Iraqi Kurdistan as well as Barzani’s own economic ties with Turkish business interests.

It is unlikely that the pragmatic Barzani has become a pan-Kurdish nationalist. He once abandoned Iranian-Kurdish militants in return for support from Tehran against Saddam, and historically he has had even less concern for the radical PKK. Indeed, Barzani’s approach has been described as “no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.” Barzani is likely to use the PKK to achieve several objectives:

  1. The unification of rival Kurdish groups under external pressure.
  2. The use of the PKK as a potential trading piece in exchange for Turkish recognition of an independent Kurdistan.
  3. The use of an external threat from Iran (which is waging its own struggle against Kurdish militants) and Turkey to convince the United States to build a military base in northern Iraq, thus ensuring the security and independence of Kurdistan against its more powerful neighbors. President al-Talabani is also promoting the idea of a U.S. base in Kurdish Iraq, reminding the United States that “they not only have political interests with the Kurds, but also economic and military interests” (al-Sharqiya TV, June 22).

Barzani’s support for the PKK is unlikely to survive the accomplishment of these goals. Without the cooperation of Turkey and Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan is not economically viable or sustainable. The high stakes play for permanent Kurdish sovereignty threatens to plunge the region into a new war. As long as Washington is unable to defuse the growing tension between its NATO partner Turkey and its Kurdish allies in Iraq, the initiative remains with Barzani. Time is running out, however. Turkey’s general staff is eager to attack PKK bases and a new government in Turkey may not exhibit the same reluctance to invade northern Iraq as the current AKP administration.

Turkey’s Evolving Anti-Terrorism Measures on the Iraqi Border

Andrew McGregor

July 3, 2007

Along the Turkish-Iraqi border, the struggle between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants is escalating. The Turkish press has released testimonies from captured Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants who claim to have witnessed U.S. armored vehicles supplying weapons to a PKK base on Mount Qandil (The New Anatolian, July 2). Regardless of its ultimate veracity, this news is being widely reported in the Turkish press and is inflaming the already slowly deteriorating relations between Turkey and the United States. There has been talk for months regarding an expected Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, but preparations along the border indicate that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) are also intent on developing a permanent security zone in the Iraqi border region.

PKK 3PKK Patrol

Despite the concentration of government forces in southeastern Turkey, PKK attacks have increased by 65% over previous years. Half of the attacks were enacted through the use of landmines or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) (Terrorism Focus, June 26). This year, 64 soldiers, many of whom were conscripts fulfilling national service, have been killed. The Turkish military alleges that “terrorists” and munitions have been crossing into the Kurdish areas of southeastern Turkey from the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. In response, 20,000 troops have been relocated to the 300 kilometer-long border, establishing mobile military response teams and temporary observation posts (Milliyet, June 13).

In recent years, a Turkish military force of 1,000 to 2,000 men was stationed at or near border control points inside northern Iraq (mainly in the Sulaymaniyah area) to collect intelligence and monitor insurgent movements; these were withdrawn in June, however, due to the declining security situation and confrontations with Kurdish troops (Milliyet, June 13). At the same time, border guards belonging to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were also pulled back five kilometers from the border. Kurdish troops are now being deployed at six new Iraqi government outposts in the Zakho District, bordering Syria and Turkey. Turkey’s military concentration along the border is undoubtedly behind the efforts of Kurdish leaders in Iraq to make a regular army from the 100,000 peshmerga guerrillas of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

In early June, three “interim security zones” were established in the Sirnak, Siirt and Hakkari provinces of southeastern Turkey. Kurdish militants are active in all three regions, where restrictions on non-military activities will be in place until September 9. A ban on air traffic in the area was partially directed at the United States, which had been sending F-16 aircraft, helicopters and surveillance drones into the zone of operations. The F-16s are alleged to have violated Turkish airspace (Hurriyet, June 8). There is speculation that Turkey intends to create a permanent “buffer zone” 15 kilometers deep and 120 kilometers long, with reports that the Turkish government is prepared to offer compensation to the thousands of Kurdish civilians who would be forced to abandon their homes under the scheme (Milliyet, June 14). Shells continue to fall in and near Kurdish Iraqi border towns in an apparent effort to drive out their population before creating an uninhabited buffer zone. Turkish shelling near the Iraqi towns of Dohuk and Erbil was protested by the Baghdad government and elicited a warning from Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who declared that the Kurds were part of the Iraqi people and promised that “we will not be silent in the face of this threat” (Daily Star [Beirut], June 13).

The TSK also intends to increase the number of thermal cameras capable of detecting the nighttime movement of insurgents across the border. Numerous tanks positioned on the border already carry infra-red devices. Until recently, Turkey was the recipient of U.S. satellite surveillance of the Iraqi border region, but it is presently taking steps to increase its own surveillance capabilities. The TSK has one unmanned surveillance drone active in the border region and is renting another from Israel until it can take delivery of 10 Israeli-made drones next year (Cihan News Agency, June 27). On June 22, Turkish Chief of Staff General Yasar Buyukanit briefed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the PKK’s acquisition of anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles (al-Sabah, June 22). Two days later, Kurdish militants reported attacking a Turkish Sikorsky helicopter (ROJ TV, June 24).

In anticipation of a Turkish attack, PKK militants are pulling back as far as 15 kilometers from the border. Cemil Bayik, one of the PKK’s two top commanders in northern Iraq, threatens that a Turkish incursion will soon become a “political and military disaster,” adding that Turkish operations would allow Iran to “interfere in Iraq.” Bayik has his own views on the Turkish chief of staff’s motivations in calling for cross-border operations. He stated, “General Buyukanit wants everyone to be a happy Turk. And those who don’t agree he brands as a traitor. He wants first to smash the Kurdish regional government in Iraq. He wants second to ruin any chances of a referendum being held on Kirkuk, and the PKK issue is really only third on his list of priorities.” Bayik insists that the PKK are freedom fighters rather than terrorists and that the movement has abandoned separatism and the aim of establishing a Marxist-Leninist Kurdish state in favor of demands for linguistic, cultural and individual freedoms within a Turkish state (ROJ TV, June 24).

This article first appeared in the July 3, 2007 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor


Taliban Suspect U.S. Drawdown a Cover for Permanent Bases

Andrew McGregor

July 1, 2011

Afghanistan’s Taliban movement has reacted to Washington’s announcement that it would begin a phased military withdrawal from Afghanistan, beginning with the withdrawal of 10,000 troops by the end of the year. In an official statement issued in the name of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban described the announcement as an attempt to deceive both the American and Afghan people by its failure to acknowledge an alleged U.S. plan to build permanent military bases with American garrisons in Afghanistan. [1]

american base afghanistan
The statement claims that President Obama “and his war mongers” have no intention of bringing the American occupation of Afghanistan to an end. In the Taliban’s eyes, the suggestion that the Afghan police and army can take over security duties from the Coalition “holds no significance,” as most of the police and army “are drug addicts” and are considered by Afghans as “enemies of their nation and religion”: “They perform their duty only to spread vice and corruption. They can neither fulfill the demands of the Afghans nor help the Pentagon and CIA to achieve their goals.”

The Taliban statement goes on to describe the American “surge” as a strategic failure that has only increased American loss of life and equipment: “They have not gained progress in the battlefield, nor can they bring forth any proofs of this progress… persecution of people and the destruction of people’s homes and farms to protect themselves cannot be called victory or progress by any sound mind.”

The statement concludes by warning American taxpayers that their money is “still being wasted” on the prosecution of the war or by finding its way into “the pockets of officials in the corrupt Kabul regime.”

Despite recent talk of new negotiations between the Taliban and the Karzai regime and its American sponsors, the two sides appear to be far apart. While Washington demands a renunciation of violence, the end of cooperation with al-Qaeda and support for the Afghan constitution, Taliban leaders continue to call for an immediate and complete withdrawal of foreign troops and the replacement of the Karzai “stooge” regime in Kabul.

Some in the U.S. administration still seem to be working on the assumption that Afghanistan’s Taliban movement is little more than a subordinate element of al-Qaeda. According to recent Senate testimony presented by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “With (Osama) Bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda’s remaining leadership under enormous pressure, the choice facing the Taliban is clear: be part of Afghanistan’s future or face unrelenting assault” (AFP, June 23).

Rumors of negotiations regarding permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan have been dismissed by Secretary of State Clinton and a number of other senior officials. A Karzai government spokesman also denied the report: “It has not been officially discussed yet… We have not proposed that the U.S.A. establish permanent bases in Afghanistan” (Tolo TV [Kabul], June 20).

Taliban fears of a permanent American military presence in Afghanistan are based on a June 13 Guardian article which claimed, according to unnamed “American officials,” that quiet but difficult negotiations are underway to provide for a continued American military presence beyond 2014 at one or more of five existing bases in Afghanistan. One of the sticking points allegedly centers on their possible use in operations against neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran. According to the Guardian’s sources, American denials are a matter of interpretation; such bases would not necessarily be “permanent,” and though American “combat troops” would not be deployed, military “advisors” routinely accompany their trainees on combat missions.


1. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan: “Statement of Islamic Emirate regarding Obama’s announcement of the withdrawal of a limited number of U.S. troops from Afghanistan,” Afghan Islamic Press News Agency, June 23, 2011.

This article first appeared in the July 1, 2011 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.