Turkey’s initiatives against Daesh:

  • Turkey designated “Daesh” a terrorist organization in 2013 and designated its predecessor group (ISI) a terrorist organization in 2005. Since then, Turkey has and continues to combat the organization with fervor and dedication. 
  • As Daesh was first formed in Iraq and later began to thrive in Syria, a joint strategy should be devised that would treat Iraq and Syria as a single theater. Although decisive action in Iraq is crucial, Daesh can only be decisively defeated if its area of control is eliminated in both countries. 
  • Turkey became a member of the anti-Daesh coalition immediately after its establishment and contributed to every facet of the coalition’s efforts. Perhaps Turkey’s most important role in the coalition is preventing the flow of Daesh resources and members across its border. So, with this in mind, the Turkish government has initiated an intensive campaign to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) in and out of Syria and Iraq, and co-chairs the coalition’s FTF Working Group.
  • The Turkish government has granted access to İncirlik Air Base, among others, for the operations of coalition air forces.
  • On August 28, 2015 Turkish jets commenced operations targeting Daesh elements in Syria within the framework of the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh. 
  • Turkey’s contribution to the anti-Daesh Coalition is not limited to the operations that it has initiated. Since autumn of 2014, Turkey has supported the fight against Daesh by providing logistical and training support to more than 2,300 Peshmerga troops of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
Turkey’s efforts to secure its border with Syria and counter oil smuggling

  • The Turkish border runs along Syria for 911 kilometers and continues with Iraq for another 331 kilometers (Map 1). Turkey holds a zero-tolerance policy regarding illegal crossings of this line, and employs effective and robust measures to prevent smuggling activities both on the border and within Turkey, particularly those involving oil.
  • Oil smuggling along Turkey’s southeastern borders is not a new phenomenon. As Turkey has been victimized by this phenomenon for decades, losing millions in tax revenue, the government has been actively fighting oil smuggling and the use of smuggled oil in gas stations all around the country through frequent inspections and other measures, especially since the beginning of the 2000s. To this end, the comprehensive Anti-Smuggling Law was adopted in 2003, and a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry was set up in 2005 to investigate oil smuggling, which led to the revision of the Petroleum Market Law in 2006. In 2012, the Action Plan on Countering Oil Smuggling was revised and a Circular Order (2012/19) by the Prime Ministry for enhanced measures was introduced. On April 11, 2013. further legislation was passed to increase the penalties for the smuggling of oil as well as the sale of smuggled oil.
Map 1: Turkey’s Southern Border

  • After the beginning of the Syrian crisis, in response to increasing lawlessness on the other side of the border, Turkish law enforcement and security forces stepped up their efforts to counter all threats to internal and international security, including smuggling activities stemming from Syria.
  • These enhanced measures targeting smuggling networks were introduced in 2012, and preceded the capture of two major oil fields in Syria and Iraq by Daesh/ ISIL in June and July 2014, months before the adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2170 in August 2014 and 2199 in February 2015.

Figure 1: Illegal Pipeline

  • While 79 million liters (21 million gallons) of smuggled oil were intercepted by the Turkish law enforcement and customs authorities in 2014, in the first ten months of 2015 this amount decreased to 1,220 cubic meters (1.22 million liters or 322,289 gallons). 300 kilometers of illegal pipelines, which are often little more than hoses used for oil. 
  • Turkey, in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolution 2199 (2015), regularly provides information to the U.N. Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee about the incidents of smuggled oil and amount of oil seized in the border area with Syria and Iraq, although the link between material seized and Daesh/ISIL or ANF terrorist groups cannot be established. Due to enhanced and effective border security measures the amount of smuggled oil has decreased considerably. This is a clear indication of Turkey’s determination to fight any illicit trade activity across our borders. The amount of oil seized at Syrian border cities in 2014 and 2015 is indicated below. (Map.2, 3) 
Map. 2: Seized Oil in 2014 and 2015

Enhanced measures for border security

  • Only two border gates are operating at the Syrian border area and no vehicle transit is allowed. Goods not subject to U.N. sanctions are unloaded at point zero and delivered to the other side of the border after a customs check.
  • Measures at the Turkish-Syria and Turkish-Iraq borders have been enhanced by additional personnel, patrols, and equipment.
  • The land borders of Turkey (with Iran, Bulgaria, Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Syria) are secured by 50,000 military personnel. Within the framework of enhanced security measures at the Syrian border, Turkey’s twelve border battalions have been redistributed to increase those along the Syrian border from 12,000 in 2014 to 20,000 today.
  • New units of air defense and reconnaissance have also been added to the battalions.
  • 90 percent of the operations of unmanned air vehicles are focused on the Syrian border area to detect illegal crossing and smuggling activities. 
  • Turkey has also strengthened physical security measures along its 911-kilometer border with Syria in a variety of ways. To name a few, the number of border patrol stations have been increased, 375.6 kilometers of trenches dug, 153.3 kilometers of barbed wire installed, a 3.3-kilometer security wall and 19.8 kilometers of movable concrete wall erected, 26.3 kilometers of accordion barrier systems positioned, 422,630 border illumination poles installed, a 79.5-kilometer embankment (3x3 m.) formed, 1,217 kilometers of border patrol paths improved, and a 7.8 kilometer road constructed (Figure 3).
Figure. 3: Physical Security Measures Along the Border

  • Furthermore, Turkey is in the process of establishing a “Syrian border physical security system” which includes the construction of 151 kilometers of walls, and this is expected to cost 81 million U.S. dollars (Figure 4). Turkish security forces also employ effective measures to prevent drug and cigarette smuggling across the Syrian border. The amount of seized drugs and cigarettes is shown below in Graph 1 and 2. 
  • The number of seized arms and equipment during counterterrorism operations against the PKK is listed in Graph 3 and in Table 1. At the same time, the transfer of such arms from conflict zones to Turkey poses a great security risk. In this vein, 30 suicide bomber vests seized in Turkey which were brought from Syria confirm the level of this threat. The number of intercepted persons crossing the Turkish-Syrian border illegally is reflected in Table 2.

Figure 4: Syrian Border Physical Security System

Graph 1

Graph 2

Table 1

Table 2

(Between June 15 – December 29, 2015)

-- Peak: September 14-28, 2015 (12,275 persons were intercepted)
-- Low: November 20-29, 2015 (3,069 persons were intercepted)

Prevention of Foreign Terrorist Fighter (FTF) travel

  • Turkey began to counter the threat of foreign terrorist fighters in 2011 and called for source countries to take necessary legal and administrative measures to prevent the departure and travel of FTFs from their countries. In this regard, Turkey has included more than 35,500 (35,970) foreigners in the no-entry list since the Syrian crisis erupted. More than 2,800 (2,896) foreigners have been deported since 2011 in the context of measures against foreign fighters. The regional distribution of suspected FTFs in Turkey’s no-entry list is shown below (Chart.1).
Chart 1

  • Turkey informs embassies in Ankara through a “note verbale” about travel plans of foreigners placed under detention due to their affiliation with Daesh/ISIL or other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. The MFA requested e-mail addresses from embassies in Ankara for urgent notification
  • In order to prevent FTFs from reaching conflict areas via Turkey, creative security measures have been implemented and reinforced, including new risk analysis units at airports and enhanced passenger screening and security checks in regions adjacent to the Syrian border. Risk Analysis Units (RAUs) have also been deployed to major bus terminals. Until now, around 7,500 people have been checked by these units and more than 1,700 of them denied entry to Turkey (Table.3). The regional distribution of deported FTFs from Turkey is shown below (Chart.2).
Table 3

Chart 2

  • Since the beginning of 2015 (as of January 14, 2016), 1,709 individuals, including 556 foreign nationals, have been detained and 474 persons arrested due to their affiliation with Daesh/ISIL.
  • In accordance with UNSCR 2178 (2014), the source countries have the primary obligation to prevent movements of such persons travelling to join terrorist organizations in the first place, but all transited countries, until FTFs reach their destinations, also have a responsibility to prevent their travel. In addition to preventing transit, international efforts should be focusing on the destruction of recruiting and facilitation networks that operate throughout the source countries and preventing the dissemination of extremist propaganda.
  • Therefore, the priority should be spotting and stopping foreign fighters travelling to conflict zones, including Syria and Iraq, at their country of departure. If that fails, then the priority of the international community is to stop them at the first port of entry. For that, Turkey and other countries need timely, concrete, actionable, and full information sharing from source countries about suspected persons of terrorism. 
  • Several different sample cases are listed below regarding FTF travel to conflict zones:        
 FTFs reaching Turkey after travelling through transit countries 

  • In December 2015, the Tajikistan Interpol  NCB  sent  bulletins and diffusion messages for the use  of Turkish  Interpol NCB regarding  22 Tajik citizens who were suspected to have travelled to Syria to join  Daesh/ISIL. The information about the subjects revealed that in this sample of 22 persons, 21 had been reported to have travelled to or resided in the Russian Federation before allegedly traveling to Turkey.  
  • In the case of one individual, his travel date to Russia was reported for 2008 and his travel to Turkey with the purpose of travelling to Syria was reported as 2014. In another cases, two individuals are reported to have travelled to Russia as migrant workers in 2012 and 2013, with no specific date for their travels to Turkey. 
  • The 21 cases indicate that the FTFs from Tajikistan have been using the Russian Federation as a hub with short and long-term residence before their alleged travels to Turkey. The details about possible links and communication among these persons and their process of radicalization before their travel to the Russian Federation is unknown. 
FTFs who have been intercepted after entry to Turkey

  • The Swedish Interpol Unit notified their Turkish counterparts on 01/14/2013 at 22:15 that individual “A,” a Bosnian citizen living in Sweden, was believed to be travelling to Syria. After an investigation, it was established that “A” was currently in Gaziantep. He was arrested on 01/15/2013 at 00:30, merely two hours after the notification of the Swedish authorities.
  • After the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris on November 13-4, 2015, the French Interpol Unit notified all countries that Individual “B,” a Moroccan citizen, was believed to have connections with the terrorist attack. After the investigation, it was found that “B” entered Turkey on November 14, 2015, just after the Paris attacks took place. He was arrested in Antalya on November 16, 2015.
Individuals who have been denied entry due to timely info shared by departure country

  • On 29 April 2015 USA authorities informed the Turkish authorities that a USA citizen named “A” is flying to İstanbul and that he intends to cross over to Syria.  He was intercepted in İstanbul Atatürk Airport the same day and interviewed by Risk Analysis Units (RAU). During the interview “A” stated that he was in Turkey as a tourist, he plans to travel to Batman and does not have a return ticket and no hotel reservation. Risk Analysis Units declared the person as inadmissible and sent him back to Canada on 1 May 2015. 
  • On 4 May 2015 Swedish authorities informed Turkish counterparts that Swedish citizens “A” and “B” would be arriving to Istanbul and that they had the intention to cross to Syria. When they arrived to Istanbul Ataturk Airport RAU detected another prospective FTF named “C” was in the same plane.  Their luggage contained camouflage gear. Swedish authorities were informed about the three FTFs who were sent back from İstanbul to Stockholm on 5th of May. However they tried to re-enter Turkey from Greece through sea border gate in Bodrum on the 12th of May, and they were denied entry.
  • Turkish security officials, while countering a number of terrorist organizations based in Iraq and Syria, are also responsible for providing law and order for 2.5 million Syrians and more than 300 thousand Iraqis who are under the Turkish government’s temporary protection.
  • The FTF challenge creates a huge burden on the security and administrative structures of the Turkish government, which are already facing the challenge of PKK and DHKP/C terrorism, as well as terrorist entities commissioned by the Syrian regime. Two years ago in the town of Reyhanlı, 52 people were killed by such a group led by Mihraç Ural, and named Mukavemi Es-Suriyyi/THKPC/Acilciler).