The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Turkey: Where the Army Can’t Protect Its Own Troops

Turkey’s Islamist government started life planning to spread peace and security around the Middle East. With war in Syria and tensions building with Iran, that ambition isn’t looking so good. And now the Turks are discovering that the peace of their own country isn’t that secure; the long sputtering Kurdish revolt is back with a bang.

Things are so bad that the Turkish army can’t protect its own troop convoys on Turkish roads anymore; Turkey’s armed forces are going to begin transporting troops to bases in the southeast by commercial aircraft in order to avoid roadside bombs set by the Kurds.

Reuters reports:

Turkey’s government and military began discussing alternative transport arrangements with the airline [Turkish Airlines] after a bomb attack on a security convoy in southeastern Bingol province which killed 10 people in September. [...]

At the signing ceremony on Thursday, Turkey’s defense minister said he envisaged some 250,000 soldiers and non-commissioned officers would be transported under the scheme. It will begin on December 28. [...]

Soldiers will be flown to existing airports and transferred from there to outlying bases.

This will hopefully reduce casualties among Turkish soldiers, but it will also cost the government a lot of money and is a clear political win for the rebels, showing that the government at present has lost confidence in its ability to provide adequate security on its own highway system. The Erdogan government came into power with promises to end the standoff with Turkey’s large and restless Kurdish minority. This is one promise, clearly,┬áthat has not been kept.

Regionally, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq are cooperating against both Iran and Iraq, and Kurds in Syria are preparing for their own autonomous regional government.

Middle East politics remains one of the most complex and deadly games in the world. Americans who are having our own problems in the Middle East can take some comfort in the reality that even the countries based there have a hard time getting their policies right.

Published on December 21, 2012 12:40 pm