Thursday, October 20, 2011

Turkey, Iraq and the PKK

Yesterday, Turkey entered Iraq with the intent of assaulting PKK or suspected PKK. Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) reports "The Turkish offensive across the Iraqi border included helicopter gunships, ground commandos and fighter jets, authorities said." Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered, link has text and audio) notes, "The conflict that began in 1984 has left tens of thousands dead. The Turkish government and Kurdish separatists have been going back and forth between attempts at reconciliation and violence in the past few years. The most recent spate of attacks escalated over the summer. One roadside bomb this week killed policemen, civilians and a four-year-old girl." Today's Zaman notes, "Nechirvan Barzani, the number two of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and a former prime minister of the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq, arrived in Ankara on Thursday to express solidarity and cooperation with Turkey in its fight against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)." Aswat al-Iraq reports:

The Kurdish Analyst, Ribin Rassoul, had stated to Aswat al-Iraq news agency that "the Iraqi government won't have a firm response towards the Turkish invasion."
"The reason for such position is that the Iraqi government had failed to interact with the Turkish dossier and its position towards the PKK and the loss of trust among Iraqi political forces and weakness of the government to take a military attitude to protect the Iraqi soil," he stressed.
On the other hand, Rassoul said that the "Central government and the Kurdistan Region's government have failed to expel the PKK forces, even if they wanted to do that."
"The Iranians had reached a decision to settle their problem with the Kurds and reached an agreement with the anti-Tehran PJAK party, adding that the problem of PKK is a Turkish problem and not an Iraqi problem, that must settled by Turkey," he said.

Al Sabaah reports MP Mahmoud Othman (Head of the Kurdistan Alliance) states that the solution to the issue is not in Baghdad or Erbil but in Ankara (Turkish capitol) and he also states that the US has been providing negative encouragement to Turkey which I will say (he's not saying this) is basically egging them on when they should be providing a calm voice and addressing the issues. Otherwise, we'll be reading about Turkey and the PKK for decades. The issue is the disenfranchisement of Kurds within Turkey. Until that's addressed, nothing's going to change. Al Mada notes the Turkish military's months of bombing the villages in northern Iraq's mountains and the fact that the people there denied the PKK were present but the bombings continued and women and children were harmed, farms went up in flames and people were displaced as a result. (The PKK has base camps in the mountains -- not villages, the Turkish military should have known -- even without the US intelligence provided -- what was a village and what was a base camp. The Times of London reported on these camps, with photographs -- and visited them -- repeatedly.)

Turning to the topic of the US military remaining in Iraq beyond 2011, Aswat al-Iraq reports Moqtada al-Sadr is stating that they should not remain even as trainers. Yes, this is a reversal from his reported remarks yesterday. Dar Addustour notes that US Vice President Joe Biden is supposed to be visiting Iraq shortly for discussions regarding US troops. Iraqi government spokesperson Naseer al-Ani is cited stating that the request for trainers will not come with any immunity and that is the only offer in play. al-Ani denies rumors of a secret pact. Dar Addustour also notes that US Ambassador to Iraq held discussions in Kirkuk on post-2011 issues.

In reported violence, Aswat al-Iraq notes, "A US Army patrol has come under an explosive charge blast west of Kut, the center of southern Iraq Province of Wassit on Wednesday night, but losses were not known, a Wassit Police source reported on Thursday."

We'll close with this from the office of US Senator Jon Tester:

Senator requests information and better accountability to protect U.S. taxpayers

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is raising a red flag about costly and unsustainable reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan and demanding more scrutiny over taxpayer-funded contracting projects in war zones.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan recently found that waste, fraud and abuse cost taxpayers one-third of the $206 billion spent on contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Tester today requested more examination, information and “appropriate action” on efforts to protect taxpayer dollars and to better address the sustainability of reconstruction projects.

“It is clear that U.S. officials are not closely scrutinizing projects for sustainability,” Tester wrote. “Not only are these projects wasteful, but they complicate our military and diplomatic efforts and undermine our ability to build trust and goodwill with locals on the ground.”

Tester pointed to several examples of potentially wasted spending – and how those funds could make a difference in Montana.

For instance, the United States spent $35 billion to train the Afghan Security Forces. Yet “the VA continues to lack the resources to reach all of our veterans.”

Tester also noted that American taxpayers paid $277 million for a water-treatment plant that remains unused in Iraq while two vital water infrastructure projects in Montana sit unfinished due to a lack of funding.

“For constituents struggling to make ends meet, this is a bitter pill to swallow,” Tester wrote. “I request that you examine both completed and current projects for risk of sustainment failure and take appropriate action on those projects with no credible prospect of being sustained. It is long past time that we bring real change to the way our government does business with contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Tester cosponsored legislation to establish the Wartime Contracting Commission in 2007. At a recent hearing on the Commission’s findings, he pushed for serious changes in how the United States uses wartime contractors like Xe, formerly known as Blackwater.

Tester also recently called for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, noting that the war’s price tag is approaching $1 trillion.

Tester’s letter to Clinton and Panetta appears online HERE.

The e-mail address for this site is