The Turkish President Abdullah Gul met President Obama on the sidelines of the Chicago Summit to discuss the supply of American drones. The US administration is trying to convince Congress to allow the sale of armed drones to Turkey. However, the move may be opposed due to tense relations between Turkey and Israel. Turkey wants armed drones to fight Kurdish rebels.
The issue has been complicated by a recent article in the Wall Street Journal revealing that an American drones provided the original intelligence to Turkey that subsequently led to the death of 34 Kurdish smugglers. These smugglers were mistaken for outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This has led to an intense debate inside Turkey about the level of American involvement in Ankara’s fight against PKK.
According to the WSJ article, “It was a U.S. Predator drone that spotted the men and pack animals, officials said, and American officers alerted Turkey.” The US had left Turkey to decide whether to attack. “The Turks made the call,” a senior U.S. defense official said. “It wasn’t an American decision.”
US drones have supported Turkish military efforts since 2007. This is when US established a Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell to jointly monitor live drone feeds. The cooperation was stepped up over the last year as US moved a squadron of Predators from a base in Iraq to Turkey’s Incirlik airbase.
The US-Turkish deal, if it goes through, could possibly be a model to resolve US-Pakistan tensions on the use of drones in FATA, Pakistan. Turkey, a NATO member, has told US that it can trust the country with armed drones. However, mistrust between US and Pakistan is on the increase.