On October 26rd, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkish authorities have neutralized 14,694 terrorists between October 24th, 2015 and October 23rd, 2018, as cited by Anadolu News Agency.
He also vowed that Turkey would continue its decisive fight against terrorism inside as well as outside its territory. He claimed that anti-terrorism operations would continue until the country is entirely clear from such elements.
According to the minister, the terrorists that were neutralized are members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as ISIS. PKK is designated as a terrorist operation in Turkey, as well as by the US, UN and the EU.
Anadolu News Agency also reported that despite Turkey’s efforts against it, PKK has resumed carrying out attacks since 2015. Those attacks have resulted in the deaths of about 500 civilians and 800 security force members. At the same time, the Turkish operations have resulted in the death or arrest of over 10,000 PKK members.
According to Anadolu News Agency, in recent years, PKK has sought to shift responsibility for the ‘bloody crimes’ in the region to its offshoots. In Syria, PKK members hide behind the names PYD and YPG, and in the last two years called themselves the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is a US-backed militia that operates in northern Syria. In Iran, the PKK acts as the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK).
The conflict between Turkey and the PKK, which demands the creation of an independent Kurdish state spans longer than 25 years and has reportedly resulted to more than 40,000 casualties.
The Daily Sabah also cited the Defense Minister, who on October 23rd spoke in an interview with Anadolu. He said that Turkey will not tolerate a terrorist corridor to be established on its southern border, which would threaten the security, peace, and tranquility in the country.
This refers to the presence of PKK affiliates in northern Syria and northern Iraq.
“Turkey will never allow establishing of terror corridors along its south borders,” Akar said.
The Daily Sabah further reported that the U.S.-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG), the PKK’s Syria offshoot, has been aiming to establish an autonomous region in northern Syria. Turkey says there is no difference between the YPG and the the PKK.
He also spoke of the Manbij agreement. Akar said that the training started on Oct. 9 and stressed that the process has been continuing in Gaziantep province. “I can tell you joint training on combined patrols in Manbij would start in a few days after the training has been completed,” he added.
The Manbij agreement was concluded between Turkey and the US in early June and it focuses on the withdrawal of the YPG from the northeastern Syrian province and joint patrols to be conducted by the militaries of both countries in order to establish stability in the region.
However, Ankara has condemned the slow implementation of the agreement in Manbij. According to the Daily Sabah, the YPG is tightening its grip on the region by establishing political entities, due to the US delays.
The YPG is also reportedly digging trenches in Manbij. Regarding them Akar said that “they would be buried in them.”
He added that in Afrin and other regions they used the same methods, yet they have failed. Akar underscored “we have been following the issue closely and will take the necessary measures when the appropriate time has come.”
He said that the end goal of Turkey is to cleanse the area of militants and ensure that the local people have a safe place to return to. He praised the Turkish operation Euphrates Shield that reportedly cleared an area up to 2,000 km from terrorists and neutralized 3,000 ISIS terrorists.
Turkey has been active in its fight against the PKK. In August it was reported that several members of the PKK which are on the country’s most wanted list were neutralized. There are constant reports of various members of the PKK being detained or killed and equipment being seized.