Turkey, US Diverge Over Procurement and Security

1 June 2016

NATO allies Turkey and the United States are exhibiting increasingly divergent positions over procurement matters and their joint campaign against radical Islamist terrorism in Syria and Iraq, giving signals of conflicting security priorities.

“This is worrying,” said one NATO diplomat in Ankara. “We hope the [US-Turkish] differences should not cause any operational weakness or lack of cohesion [in the allied campaign].”

Turkey’s top procurement official said Sunday that a US restriction on the sale of some weapon systems has driven Turkey to develop its own technologies. “I don’t want to be sarcastic but I would like to thank [the US government] for any of the projects that was not approved by the US because it forced us to develop our own systems,” said Ismail Demir.

Demir said that Turkey successfully developed an indigenous, armed drone system [the Bayraktar] which it effectively uses in its anti-terror operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

On April 29 Turkey successfully tested the Bayraktar, which hit a target at the Konya fire test field in central Anatolia from a distance of 8 kilometers. The Bayraktar uses the MAM-L and MAM-C, two mini smart munitions developed and produced by the state-controlled missile maker Roketsan. Roketsan’s mini systems weigh 22.5 kilograms including a 10-kilogram warhead.

Demir said that Turkey no longer needs US-made armed drone systems. “Unfortunately in the case of armed drones, on our part, we have closed that page,” he said, referring to a Turkish request, pending since 2009, for the US sale of the sophisticated armed MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle system, known as the Predator.

Demir said that blocking arms sales to Turkey would not set back Ankara from its national security goals. He warned that “the restrictions [of armed systems] would not be productive for long-term strategic relations between the two allies [the US and Turkey].”

One of Turkey’s procurement goals is to end its dependency on foreign-made systems in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday criticized the US after photos emerged of US special operations forces wearing the insignia of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) on their shoulders during an assault on Islamic State positions in Syria’s Raqqa.

Turkey claims the YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed militant group fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. Turkey, the US and the European Union consider the PKK as a terrorist group.

“I am someone who believes that politics should be conducted honestly,” Erdogan said. “Therefore, our allies, those who are with us in NATO, cannot and should not send their own soldiers to Syria, with insignias of the YPG.”

Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization and has long asked the US to “choose between its NATO ally and a terrorist organization.” Washington has since refused to label the Kurdish group as a terrorist organization. The YPG helps the alliance fight the Islamic State group on the ground.

“Our Turkish friends should be able to understand that the YPG is a useful asset functioning like ground troops against the ISIL,” said one western ambassador in Ankara, using another name for the Islamic State group.

Seeking to diffuse tensions with Ankara over the YPG-insignia incident, the Pentagon said Friday that it was “unauthorized” and “inappropriate” for US special operations forces to wear YPG patches on their uniforms. “Corrective action taken, and we have communicated as much to our military partners and military allies in the region,” said  Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the anti-Islamic State coalition, during a videoconference from Baghdad.

But US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that Washington does not regard the YPG as part of the PKK. “On the contrary, we believe the YPG as well as other forces in northern Syria are effectively taking the fight to ISIL,” he said.

Analysts say Washington is trying to perform a balancing act between its Turkish and Kurdish allies.

“The US needs both to fight the ISIL. And it’s not that it needs both just now; it will need both in its future campaigns against the jihadists,” said an Ankara-based western security analyst. “A return to peace negotiations by the Turks and the PKK may help resolve the dispute but this does not seem like a realistic option, at least in the next year or a year and a half.”


Source : defensenews.com