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Turkey’s derailed war on terror(The Hindu)

IN Islamic State Turkey is facing a multi-dimensional security crisis. Its forces are deployed on two battlefronts — in the southeast, where most of the country’s 15 million Kurds live, to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); and in Syria to face off threats from the Islamic State (IS) as well as Kurdish rebels. But these operations have hardly helped the country secure its cities from terror attacks, as seen in Saturday’s blasts in Istanbul that killed 44 people, mostly police officers. The attack has been claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group of the PKK, which said they were taking revenge for the ongoing military operation in the southeast and the continuing imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader. The unrelenting terror attacks over the past few years show that something is wrong with law enforcement and security arrangements in Turkey, a country otherwise known for functional institutions and a tough security regime, or a deep state. Even at the height of the civil war with the PKK, violence was largely confined to the southeast. So what went wrong for Ankara? Part of the problem was the reckless handling of foreign policy and internal security by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The IS grew in strength under the watch of the Erdogan government which, driven by its hostility towards the Syrian regime, looked away as its border was being used by the jihadists. By the time Turkey started focussing on the IS, it was too late. It could still have launched a coordinated, focussed campaign against the IS. Instead, the government abandoned a peace process initiated with the PKK and opened another front. Over the past year, the Turkish security forces have turned several cities in the southeast such as Diyarbakir into battle zones. This exposes Ankara’s security dilemma: whatever it does to defeat the Kurdish militancy is deepening the crisis further. Even the ties between the TAK and the PKK are in dispute. Though the TAK calls Mr. Ocalan its leader, it has severed organisational ties with the PKK saying the latter’s “passive struggle methods” are not acceptable. But Ankara is going after every Kurdish organisation whenever the TAK carries out an attack, mostly on security personnel. In recent months, many Kurdish politicians, including Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the largest Kurdish political party, the People’s Democratic Party, were arrested. There is a dangerous pattern in Turkey’s approach towards these security challenges. On the one side it is complacent in the fight against the IS, perhaps because of its geopolitical calculations; on the other, it is using collective punishment tactics to deal with the Kurdish militancy. The current security situation will vouch for this policy’s failure.

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