Pentagon Giving Turkey Intelligence on PKK

The United States is actively supporting Turkey in its attacks against PKK terrorists, although remaining vague on the precise nature of the intelligence provided.

The United States has given Turkey intelligence to track Kurdish fighters hiding in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday, but he would not say whether Washington gave Ankara precise targets used in weekend raids.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman also would not say whether the United States gave Turkey prior approval to use Iraqi air space to conduct the strikes. “The United States continues to assist with information to the Turkish government that will help them deal with the insurgent situation that they have up there,” Whitman said.

The Pentagon had said it was helping Turkey gain the “actionable” intelligence needed for a strike against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. Actionable intelligence refers to information that can be acted upon, such as data that pinpoints the location of a target for a military strike.

Asked specifically whether the United States gave Turkey targets used in weekend raids, Whitman said he would not “get into details like that.”

Which is press secretary-speak for “Yes.”

Given the sensitivity of the situation, the United States government naturally wants to be a bit cagey here. At the same time, we have a NATO ally being attacked by terrorists who are based in territory occupied by American soldiers. It would be inconceivable for 1) Turkey to risk killing American personnel by bombing without prior coordination or 2) for us not to give them the best intel at our disposal so as to minimize collateral damage.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hal says:

    for us not to give them the best intel at our disposal so as to minimize collateral damage.

    I think the real issue is sovereignty, don’t you?

  2. James Joyner says:

    I think the real issue is sovereignty, don’t you?

    It’s one of many issues, yes. Turkey has the right as a sovereign state to defend itself from attacks and Iraq has a duty as an ostensibly sovereign state to prevent terrorist groups from launching attacks from its territory. Iraq’s sovereignty is, of course, constrained by practical realities.

  3. Hal says:

    You mean “Iraq” in the last sentence, right?

  4. James Joyner says:

    You mean “Iraq” in the last sentence, right?

    Yes – fixed!

    Of course, in reality, every state’s sovereignty is constrained by practicalities, certainly including ours. Some more so than others, though.

  5. Hal says:

    Well, I don’t think that Israel will be making the calls for bombing inside our country, so your last statement seems to be so general as to obscure the issue. Basically, the US is still occupying Iraq and they don’t have anything approaching sovereignty as we would normally recognize it. I certainly understand the – uh – practicalities involved, but what’s striking to me is that they didn’t even give the illusion that this was the Iraqi’s decision. Basically, it seems, this is a pretty nasty slap in the face to Iraqi sovereignty and it’s just weird that they didn’t even try to mitigate that.