"Interconnected tunnels, a hospital, even a volleyball court!" Ex-soldier Abdullah Ağar details the complexity of PKK's cave systems in a recent CNN Türk interview.
— MedyaNews (@1MedyaNews) October 7, 2023
Turkey’s famous anchor Ahmet Hakan and his CNN Türk guest Abdullah Ağar, an ex-serviceman, on Tuesday acknowledged the effective digging-in and combat tactics of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas and the ineffectiveness of the Turkish forces against them in their ongoing military operations.
As the military campaign launched by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) against PKK positions in Iraqi Kurdistan escalates, pro-government TV channels have been devoting a significant part of their discussion programmes to similar broadcasts aimed at gaining public support for Turkey’s cross-border operations, usually relying on unverified and solely government-sourced information and featuring former military personnel as commentators.
Referring to recent statements by the Turkish Defence Ministry that its forces had successfully destroyed 670 of the PKK’s caves in the Zap region, Ahmet Hakan asked Ağar: “How do all these caves receive logistical support? … Doesn’t it require a massive organisation?”
“This is something unique,” Ağar replied. “There is no rival to such an organisation in the world.” He said the PKK had developed a system of cave-digging “from their experience of previous ground and air operations” by the Turkish army.
Ağar went on to explain the PKK’s alleged planning and equipment around and inside the caves, claiming that the underside of the mountain has been carved out with a number of “interconnected tunnels, cliffs, a hospital, a training area… There is even a cave with a volleyball court in it.” He added that the Turkish forces had ended up achieving “great heroic feats in every cave operation”.
Casualty figures given by both sides in clashes between Turkey and the PKK are often contradictory. During the recent escalation of Turkish air strikes, for example, Turkish officials said that many guerrillas had been killed, while the PKK announced that it had suffered no casualties and that the guerrillas had responded effectively to the attacks, which resulted in the deaths of three Turkish soldiers.
Ağar frequently appears on television programmes commenting in support of Turkey’s cross-border military aggression and other government policies under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Ağar was also a parliamentary candidate for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a far-right ally of the AKP, in Turkey’s 2018 general election.
Although he is described as a “terrorism and defence expert” on government-backed television channels, his biography indicates that he left the military at a lower rank, with some sources listing him as a lieutenant and others as a second lieutenant.