The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) is an insurgent group with close ties to the YPG (People’s Protection Units) that conducts guerrilla based combat operations against Turkish military forces. They have been officially designated as a terrorist organization by NATO because of their continuous attacks on a NATO ally — Turkey. The PKK have roots in communism that have been re-branded to democratic confederalism, an ideology espoused by their leader Abdullah Öcalan, a man who spent a lifetime fighting for Kurdish rights and opposing the Turkish rule held over the nearly autonomous Kurdish territory known as Rojhalat (southeastern Turkey). They are incredibly experienced in techniques of warfare that resemble the Mujahideen fighters from the Afghanistan/Russian conflict during the 1980s — a small band of under-equipped fighters attempting to combat a powerful regime.
The PKK routinely attack Turkish combat outposts and military convoys in the mountain range that separates Turkey and Syria. The danger of patrolling attack helicopters is one of the main threats to their movement. Portable anti-aircraft missile systems are often employed if an established routine on the helicopter’s part can be exploited. IEDs (improvised explosive device), RPGs, grenades and small arms are used to ambush these high value targets. Over the years they have become skilled tacticians but their ideology restricts them from becoming truly proficient soldiers. Overall they make up a formidable guerrilla element that exploits the terrain, a terrain that hinders conventional Turkish forces.
The PKK can be broken down into different chapters with varying missions or operational requirements, but ultimately it is spearheaded by its mountain-based nomadic fighters. Other groups attack from within Turkish borders or cities by bombing government buildings or assassinating high value targets within the Turkish government. It’s easy to understand how they picked up the terrorist label by looking at the way they operate. The standard uniform of their members is an olive drab colored traditional Kurdish shawal (baggy pants and a fold-over shirt wrapped in a sash), which is paired with knock-off Adidas sneakers and chest rig/magazine carriers. However, the operational cells working from within Turkey wear clothes that match the surrounding populace for obvious reasons.
The following video, while clearly staged, is an accurate depiction of a typical mission a PKK squad/patrol might find themselves on. It shows a long hike with limited support or logistics, followed up by a planned ambush and exfiltration of the target. The conditions, equipment, clothing and demeanor are extremely well detailed and seem accurate in regards to any small PKK element in recent history.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia; film courtesy of YouTube.
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