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US General: Non-Military Efforts Important in Fighting Kurds

The commander of U.S. forces in Europe says Turkey needs to deal with Kurdish violence using counterinsurgency principles that go beyond military force and focus on eliminating the reasons for the popular discontent that fuels insurgencies. General Bantz Craddock spoke to reporters in Washington, as VOA's Al Pessin reports.

General Craddock declined to provide details of meetings he has had with Turkish officials, but he described the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK as a terrorist organization that is acting like an insurgency. He said "obviously" counterinsurgency theories are important in fighting it.

"There are counterinsurgency indications, and obviously counterinsurgency measures that can be taken. And we are talking to them about our experiences and our doctrine," he said.

The new U.S. military counterinsurgency doctrine calls for a multi-faceted approach, including military forces, but focusing on winning the hearts and minds of the people involved by providing government services and economic development. U.S. forces began implementing the doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan earlier this year, and have had some success. General Craddock says Turkey is also doing some non-military counterinsurgency work in Kurdish areas near the Iraqi border.

"In an insurgency, there are very few military solutions," he added. "It's a comprehensive approach. It's counterinsurgency doctrine, separating leadership from followers, providing followers [with] alternatives. I think if one looks at what's happening, particularly in southeast Turkey, you'd see some counterinsurgency operations conducted by the Turkish government, beyond the military, which is helpful and I think in the right direction."

The general did not say what could be done to apply counterinsurgency principles to PKK guerrillas who operate in the mountains of northern Iraq, and strike at Turkish targets across the border. He called the impact of the PKK attacks "significant."

In October, after a particularly deadly cross-border strike, Turkey's defense minister called on its NATO ally the United States to take "tangible action" to help end the attacks. Since then, Turkey has stepped up military operations against the PKK, and the United States has reportedly provided some help through intelligence, political pressure on the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq and other forms of cooperation. But U.S. military forces in Iraq have not become involved in the fighting