Turkish soldiers patrol in Kurdistan Region's Avashin area, Duhok province last month. Photo: Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey has doubled its military presence in the Kurdistan Region to “eliminate terror,” the prime minister said on Sunday. “We have doubled our presence in northern Iraq. We have exactly 11 bases. Our aim is to eliminate terror before it infiltrates our soil and to secure our border,” Binali Yildirim said during a meal to break the Ramadan fast with journalists. Turkish forces have pushed 27 kilometres into Kurdistan in their operation against the PKK, named a terror organization by Turkey, the US, and Europe. Ankara has stepped up its offensive against the PKK since the conflict resumed in 2015 after peace talks failed. Kurdish towns and cities in Turkey’s southeast were put under military curfews as the conflict was taken into urban areas for the first time. At least 3,492 people have been killed within Turkey since July 20, 2015, including 440 confirmed civilians, according to figures from the International Crisis Group. Turkey has also taken its conflict with the PKK across borders in Iraq and Syria. Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch were two operations in northern Syria. The purpose of Euphrates Shield in 2016 was to remove ISIS threats from the borders with Turkey and prevent Kurds from expanding control west of the Euphrates River. Olive Branch, earlier this year, was an operation against Kurdish forces in Afrin who Ankara considers as branches of the PKK, a charge the Kurds deny. Yildirim claimed that in Syria they have “cleared a 250-kilometre range in Afrin and Euphrates Shield region, meaning west of Euphrates, from terror.” Turkey has now turned its sights to focus on lands on the other side of the river, extending all the way to Iran. “We still have issues to the east of the Euphrates, which ranges throughout Iraq-Iran borders. This means that we still have issues with a 1,000-kilometre range there.” Turkey’s goal in its current operation in the Kurdistan Region is the PKK headquarters in the Qandil Mountains. A group of lawmakers have called for the Kurdistan Region parliament to convene a special session to address the issue of Turkish troops on their soil.
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