Truckloads of Turkish troops, many of them weary and unshaven, have returned from Iraq as Turkey ended a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels after eight days, meeting U.S. demands for a quick campaign. Washington and Baghdad welcomed the move, but Turkish officials warned they would send forces back into Iraq if they deemed it necessary.
A key test of the effectiveness of Turkey's ground incursion could come in the weeks ahead with the arrival of spring, the traditional start of the fighting season of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. In the past, guerrillas have taken advantage of the melting snows and infiltrated Turkey from bases in Iraq, and any surge in PKK attacks could trigger another response from the Turkish army.
"It is very clear that an established group like the PKK will not be eliminated with one or two more cross-border operations. Turkey needs pinpoint operations against the group's leadership," Sinan Ogan, head of the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis in Ankara, said Friday.
Turkey's first major incursion into Iraq for about a decade reflected the sensitive nature of its alliance with the U.S., which provided intelligence to the Turkish military but sought a short campaign to preserve the relative calm of northern Iraq.
In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "I would certainly expect that in the future, that unless the PKK gives up terrorism, that we're going to have to continue to work with the Turks and the Iraqis to go after them."