US Steps Up Efforts To Protect Turkey From PKK Threat

The United States is ramping up efforts to help its NATO ally Turkey protect itself more effectively from threats posed by a Kurdish rebel group, expanding intelligence cooperation against the outlawed organization.

The U.S. is improving its what is known as an “intelligence fusion center” — a program that has been operational since 2007 and helps Turkey better identify and track militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal.

It is not clear if the expansion of intelligence capabilities is a move to assuage Turkey’s anger over Washington’s decision to send heavier arms to Syrian Kurdish militants, a group of allied fighters Turkey view as terrorists. But it displays that the U.S. is still committed to Turkey’s national security with respect to threats from groups both countries see as terrorists.

The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey, and the EU.

Intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey was first introduced during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to White House in 2007. While the U.S. Congress was adamant in blocking the sale of armed drones to Turkey, U.S.-operated aircraft contributed to Turkey’s intelligence efforts both in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. Pentagon described its actionable intelligence sharing as “pretty high standard.”

Actionable intelligence is the kind of information that allows Turkish jets to strike PKK targets effectively.

Since then, Turkey’s own intelligence capabilities have improved significantly. And Mr. Erdogan is scheduled next week to meet with President Donald J. Trump, who approved sending arms to Syrian Kurdish YPG militias.

Pentagon said in a statement on Tuesday that the U.S. is committed to Turkey’s national security and aware of Ankara’s security concerns.

“We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally,” Pentagon spokesperson said.

The U.S. decision to enhance intelligence cooperation with Turkey might not allay Mr. Erdogan’s concerns, who will express this to President Trump in their May 16 meeting.

“I will directly convey our concerns and position regarding this decision [about sending arms to Syrian Kurds] in detail during our meeting with President Trump on May 16,” Mr. Erdogan said on Wednesday.

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