EXCLUSIVE-U.S. halts secretive drone program with Turkey over Syria incursion

By Humeyra Pamuk and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON, Feb 5 (Reuters)The United States has halted a secretive navy intelligence cooperation program with Turkey that for years helped Ankara goal Kurdish PKK militants, 4 U.S. officers advised Reuters.

The U.S. determination to indefinitely droop the program, which has not been beforehand reported, was made in response to Turkey’s cross-border navy incursion into Syria in October, the U.S. officers stated, revealing the extent of the harm to ties between the NATO allies from the incident.

The U.S. officers, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, stated the United States late final 12 months stopped flying the intelligence assortment missions that focused the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which each the United States and Turkey classify as terrorists.

The U.S. navy had carried out the missions utilizing unarmed drone plane, which one official stated have been flown out of Turkey’s Incirlik air base, the place the U.S. navy has a big presence. The base can also be a key hub for U.S. spy businesses working in the area.

The U.S. drone flights that befell throughout the program, in place since 2007, usually zeroed in on mountainous territory in northern Iraq close to the Turkish border, one other official stated.

A Pentagon spokeswoman didn’t straight touch upon any particular packages however famous that the United States has designated the PKK a terrorist group since 1997.

“We have supported Turkey in their fight against the PKK in many ways for decades. As a matter of policy, we do not provide details on operational matters,” the spokeswoman stated, when requested a few halt in help.

A State Department spokesperson stated the United States doesn’t touch upon intelligence issues.

Officials from the Turkish protection ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark, however a Turkish official confirmed the program was stopped.

The halt to U.S. help will take a look at the bounds of Turkey’s navy and intelligence capabilities at a time when its forces are already deployed on a number of fronts in northern Syria and as Ankara mulls deeper engagement in Libya.

“This makes the anti-PKK campaign more difficult and more costly for Turkey,” one of many 4 U.S. officers, talking on the situation of anonymity, stated.

It additionally provides to a laundry record of grievances between the United States and Turkey, together with Ankara’s buy of Russian air defenses and broader splits over the struggle in Syria, regardless of what seems tobe a powerful relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan.

“In recent years, Turkey has not been struggling to obtain the information it needs through drones it produces itself,” the Turkish official stated. “However, as an ally the steps taken on this issue do not contribute to ties between the two countries.”


Trump, lengthy a skeptic of U.S. navy involvement in Syria, has been blamed by Democrats and even some Republicans for abandoning the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters to the Turkish onslaught, and in so doing, unraveling U.S. coverage.

The Turkish offensive took purpose at Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, who had been America’s prime allies within the battle towards Islamic State.

Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group, indistinguishable from the PKK. But U.S. coverage has lengthy drawn a brilliant line between the 2 teams, serving to Turkey fight the PKK whilst U.S. navy forces concurrently partnered with the YPG militia to fight Islamic State.

The PKK took up arms towards the Turkish state in 1984, waging an insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast. Since then, greater than 40,000 individuals have been killed within the battle. Kurds, as an ethnic group, kind about 20 p.c of Turkey’s inhabitants.

Turkey’s navy has usually struck targets in Iraq’s Kurdish area close to the PKK’s stronghold within the Qandil mountains and has additionally carried out cross-border operations into northern Iraq concentrating on the militant group.

Since the inception of the secretive U.S. intelligence cooperation program, Ankara has invested a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of to advance its personal protection capabilities and decreased its dependence on U.S. and Israeli drones which it steadily used for the reason that late 1990s.

Turkey’s privately-owned Baykar Defence, whose administration entails Selcuk Bayraktar, a son-in-law of Erdogan, started engaged on creating Turkey’s first drone fleet for the reason that 2000s.

Within a decade and a half, it has developed armed and unarmed drones and begun promoting them to the Turkish military in addition to to Ukraine and Qatar. As of July 2019, a complete of 86 Bayraktar drones are in service with Turkey’s safety forces and a few of these have been usually used throughout Ankara’s three Syria operations in 2016, in 2018 and once more final October.

Arda Mevlutoglu, a Turkey-based protection analyst stated the latest advance has geared up Ankara with better flexibility and freedom in its operational capabilities.

“Turkey’s dependence on her allies, mainly to the U.S., significantly decreased, if not completely ended in real-time high-quality intelligence gathering and surgical strike type operations,” Mevlutoglu stated.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Phil Stewart Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay and Orhan Coskun in Ankara Editing by Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall)

((humeyra.pamuk@thomsonreuters.com; +1 202 3105694; Reuters Messaging: Twitter: @humeyra_pamuk))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the writer and don’t essentially replicate these of Nasdaq, Inc.

Source link Christmas 2019

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