In a cross-border ground assault supported by artillery, aircraft, helicopters, and drones, Turkey has launched an invasion of Iraq in order to take out the insurgent group in the northern part.
According to the Defense Ministry in Ankara, Turkey has launched a large cross-border military attack against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) insurgents in northern Iraq.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar declared the operation in a video speech on Monday morning, saying it will include a comprehensive airstrike campaign involving jets, helicopters, and drones, as well as a land incursion by commando troops.
Ankara asserts it eliminated many PKK bunkers, tunnels, and ammo depots, and also military base, in northern Iraq’s border areas of Metina, Zap, and Avashin-Basyan, before ground troops entered the neighboring state. The number of troops and military equipment engaged in the operation is unknown.
“Our operation is continuing successfully, as planned. The targets that were set for the first phase have been achieved,” Akar said, as cited by AP.
Turkish soldiers are exclusively targeting “terrorists,” according to the minister, and are actively taking steps to avoid civilian casualties and damage to cultural heritage sites.
“Our struggle will continue until the last terrorist is neutralized,” he said. “We are determined to save our noble nation from the terror misfortune that has plagued our country for 40 years.”
The PKK is a Kurdish insurgent political group and armed guerrilla force struggling for an independent Kurdistan. It has been at odds with Ankara since 1984, costing over 40,000 deaths in the process. Turkey has launched a number of military operations against the PKK, which is entrenched in northern Iraq and has used the region to support insurgency in the country’s east.
The US, UK, and EU have all recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization. However, in the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Syria and Iraq, the Kurds were a vital ally for the West and the US. In Syria’s Kurdish-controlled parts, Washington has a military presence, while in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, there are multiple American military sites and a US consulate in Erbil.