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Turkey Preparing for Attack on PKK HQ in Qandil Mountains

The Turkish troops are closing in on the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq for a final operation to dismantle the headquarters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has had a presence in the mountainous area for more than two decades. 

For more than a week, senior Turkish politicians are telegraphing a final blow to PKK, which has been fighting a war against the Turkish state for self-rule in southeastern Turkey for more than three decades. As recently as Friday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the Turkish troops are 30 kilometers deep inside northern Iraq.

A possible capture of the major PKK base in the Qandil mountains would be a huge electoral boost to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who faces a tough re-election bid.

Pro-government TGRT Haber reported that Turkish commandos advanced toward Qandil mountains.

Two days ago, Yildirim said that “every option is on the table.”

But there are significant logistical and operational challenges ahead.

“The operation is all about elections and AKP’s worry of not getting through easily hence the need to stir up nationalist sentiments and attach voters,” Kamran Matin, a senior lecturer in the Univesity of Sussex, told Globe Post Turkey.

“But I doubt they [TSK] can actually conquer Qandil. This has been tried several times before and the terrain is simply not of the kind that lends itself to an easy success of conventional army operation,” he added.

In the past, the Turkish military launched ground offensives both during the 1990s and the late 2000s. In 1995, the military sent 35,000 troops to northern Iraq in its largest operation to deal a huge blow to the separatist group. The PKK, as a guerilla force, withdrew its fighters to the further south and avoided a direct confrontation with the Turkish forces.

The last time it did was in October 1992 when the PKK lost more than 1,500 militants during clashes with the Turkish troops.

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