Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kosova/Kosovo: KLA-PKK, TSK-PKK dirty proxy war

This post links the dirty war between the Turkish military and the Kurdish guerrillas with the battle between the Albanian and Kurdish mafiosi, which seems to be a continuation of that dirty war, a proxy war between the Turkish military and the Kurdish guerrillas, which has created and consolidated a deep state in Kosova/Kosovo.

When my computer collapsed under the weight of unread research articles and unwritten thesis chapters, I lost the pages-long bookmarks list of relevant newspaper and journal articles and blog posts about cultural destruction and political violence in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Thankfully, I will not be discussing Kosova in my thesis, so the loss of the Kosovan articles is not too great (although it would have been nice to have been able to link from my photo blogs to relevant discussions elsewhere). Anyway, a friend just sent me a link to Brian Akira's blog post profiling Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, which had two articles appended to it.

I was initially concerned, because Akira's blog roll includes people whose accuracy and impartiality cannot be relied upon, like Hugh Fitzgerald and Daniel Pipes, but his own work seems sound and is corroborated by the appended articles, one from the National Review and another from the Christian Science Monitor.

Richard Mertens' piece in the Christian Science Monitor was written not long after the war, but it is still relevant now, because it reiterates some of the many different types of violence in Kosova (beside nationalist violence between Kosovan Albanians and Kosovan Serbs), highlighting the connections between politically-motivated violence and organised crime.
Political activists have been shot at and killed. They have been kidnapped and beaten. They have had grenades tossed into their yards. Their cars have been set on fire. More frequently, officials believe, they have been threatened and intimidated.
Kosovan Albanian nationalist extremists, who funded their war for independence from Serbia through crime are attacking those pacifist and multicultural Kosovan Albanian rivals who might take power from them.
Some members of the Kosovo Protection Corps [Trupat e Mbrojtjes së Kosovës (TMK)], set up by NATO to respond to civil emergencies and help with reconstruction, have been implicated in attacks.

The organization, known as the TMK, is largely made up of former KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës))] fighters. "It's very clear that the TMK is totally behind Thaci and is involved in intimidation," says Mr. [Dardan] Gashi of the International Crisis Group [ICG].
With violent extremists and criminals in positions in the government and other civil structures, before birth, Kosova had already begun exhibiting the symptoms of a not-so-deep state.

Mark Almond's piece in the National Review noted KLA involvement in organised crime and even touched upon the KLA's rivalry with the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (Kurdistan Workers' Party)):
It was not just Ankara's pro-NATO, anti-Serb line that shifted the PKK against the KLA, it was a turf war between the KLA's fundraisers in Western Europe and the PKK's. In the last few years, Kosovar and Kurdish mafiosi have been fighting to control the drug and prostitution rackets of many big West European cities.
I believe, however, that Almond read the situation backwards. He expected that the PKK would unthinkingly oppose the KLA simply because the Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri (TSK)) supported them.

Moreover, he believed that the mafiosi were the intellectual leaders of the Kurdish and Kosovan Albanian nationalist movements (that is to say, no intellectual leaders at all) and that any decision would be a business one.

It was not merely a 'turf war', not merely that they had been competing over stakes in the profits of drug-running and people trafficking; it was an extension of the political and power struggles between the TSK and the PKK, which themselves may be seen to be somewhat hangovers from the Cold War.

The leftist Kurdish guerrillas are aligned with the Orthodox Axis of Russia, Serbia and Greece and the nationalist Kosovan Albanian guerrillas with the unholy alliance of the United States, Albania and Turkey; Cyprus's position in all of this is typically mixed up.(1)

The BBC related that:
It is alleged that when the Kurdish insurgency started in Turkey in the mid-1980s, one of these radical groups, the Turkish Hezbollah was recruited to lead a "dirty war" against the insurgents....

When the war petered out in the late 1990s.... [i]ts supporters, and those of other organisations, went off to fight in Eritrea, Chechnya, Bosnia and Afghanistan. [The Macedonian Ministry of the Interior also faces 'fighters from Turkey'.]
The Guardian explained that:
In both Afghanistan and the Gulf, the Pentagon had incurred debts to Islamist groups and their Middle Eastern sponsors. By 1993 these groups, many supported by Iran and Saudi Arabia, were anxious to help Bosnian Muslims fighting in the former Yugoslavia and called in their debts with the Americans....

The result was a vast secret conduit of weapons smuggling though Croatia. This was arranged by the clandestine agencies of the US, Turkey and Iran, together with a range of radical Islamist groups, including Afghan mojahedin and the pro-Iranian Hizbullah....

Arms purchased by Iran and Turkey with the financial backing of Saudi Arabia made their way by night from the Middle East.... Mojahedin fighters were also flown in, but they were reserved as shock troops for especially hazardous operations.
Cannonfire relayed that,
According to [US FBI whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds, "The Turkish government, MIT and the Turkish military, not only sanctions, but also actively participates in and oversees the narcotics activities and networks."

"We know that Al Qaeda and Taliban's main source of funding is the illegal sale of narcotics," Edmonds notes, adding, "we know that Turkey is a major, if not the top, player in the transportation, processing, and distribution of all the narcotics derived from the Afghan poppies, and as a result, it is the major contributing country to Al Qaeda."
In this case, drugs and money would have flowed back and forth along the 'Albanian Mafia... narcotics-smuggling route that runs through Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia' that was noted by Insight on the News.

The process for recruiting Mujahideen for the war in Kosova would have been the same as for the wars in Bosnia and Chechnya [In addition, Turkish Mujahideen trained the KLA and Turkish Mujahideen fought alongside them. (Added: 24/05/08.)] CNN recorded that,
The Gray Wolves run the mosques and commercial activities in some parts of Istanbul. It is in these mosques... that offerings are collected after daily prayers for the Chechen refugees. It is money that probably also goes to soldiers on the front lines....

[T]he pro-Chechen network daily enlists men to send to the front, gathers funds and organizes demonstrations.(2)
The BBC expanded:
Bosnian embassies in Austria and Turkey handed out citizenships without fully checking the background of the applicants.

The government of the time, led by the staunchly Muslim Alija Izetbegovic, is also thought to have bent the law while granting citizenships to the mujahideen.(3)
So, by backing and going into business with the KLA, the TSK is not just funding its own battle with the PKK, but, moreover, opening up a new front against them and, by clashing with the KLA, the PKK are also clashing with the TSK: it is a dirty, proxy war.

  1. Cyprus, both its north and southern sides, has become a center for offshore money laundering by Arab banks fronting al Qaeda funds into the Balkans. The CIA puts al Qaeda's specific Balkan-directed funds -- those tied to the "humanitarian" agencies and local banks and not explicitly counting the significant drug profits added to that -- at around $500 million to $700 million between 1992 and 1998.(4)
  2. American and Turkish support for secessionist movements in Chechnya and Kosova partly explains Russia and Serbia's historical alliance and the vehemence of Russia's defence of Serbia, as well as Russian support for the no-longer-secessionist PKK.
  3. The BBC said that '[e]stimates of the numbers [of Turkish Mujahideen] who joined the "global jihad" vary between 2,000 and 10,000' and (in 2000) CNN stated that, '[a]ccording to some estimates, there [we]re between 3,000 and 5,000 foreign Mujahedeen in Turkey on their way to fight in Chechnya'.
  4. CORRECTION! The original footnote began,
    The Wall Street Journal observed that:
    as revealed in the February 2001 East Africa bombing trial testimony of Jamal al Fadl -- an al Qaeda operative in charge of weapons development in Sudan -- uranium used in "dirty bombs" that release lethal radioactive material, had been tested in 1994 by members of the Sudan-based Islamic National Front in the town of Hilat Koko, in Turkish-held northern Cyprus.

    [Actually, the transcript clearly shows that al Fadl stated that he didn't know whether the uranium had been tested or not; nevertheless, it had been taken and kept there.]
    The Wall Street Journal article misread the testimony, which referred to dirty bombs tested in Hilat Koko, Khartoum, Sudan, then went on to discuss al Qaeda fundraising and/or laundering money in Cyprus immediately afterwards; I did check it, but both the British Foreign Office and the European Union had also taken Marcia Christoff Kurop at her word, or made the mistake themselves.

    Incidentally, the Sudanese Islamic National Front was working with al Qaeda, the two providing money and protection for each other (some people even had membership of both groups); given the links between the Islamic National Front and al Qaeda and between al Qaeda and Turkish al Qaeda, it seems probable that there are links between the Islamic National Front and Turkish al Qaeda.


  1. And does this proxy war continue? Or is it the past? Turkey was one of the first to recognise Kosovo, but they also have to deal with Russian gas/trade and seem to have put more pressure on Chechen groups.

  2. Well, I guess the narcotics trade continues, but some of the organisations - like the Serbian army and the KLA - are not at war now. I suppose the partnerships and competitions in the trade follow the old system, but I don't have any current information on the groups' terrorist/paramilitary activities.

  3. Some Russian material came from 'officers and soldiers whose pay was in arrears [who] often decided to sell whatever materials they could: arms, a[m]munition, vehicles, spare parts, food, and even medicine' (and some of that would have gone to the PKK). Russian soldiers are still poor, so that line in the trade must still exist. It will be strange, but I guess it will even survive a Russian-Turkish alliance...