US arms to Iraqi Kurds slipping through to PKK?

It seems the US has been inadvertently arming the PKK these past four years since the Iraq invasion—the same quasi-Maoist Kurdish separatist group that is seeking to secede from NATO ally Turkey and is on the State Department “foreign terrorist organizations” list. Has Washington been playing the Kurds for fools, or the other way ’round? From AFP, Aug. 30:

WASHINGTON — A top Pentagon official is heading to Iraq to investigate claims that US arms supplied to Iraqi security forces have ended up in Turkey, which is fuming over cross-border attacks by Kurdish rebels.

The Defense Department’s inspector general Claude Kicklighter, a retired Army general, is due in Iraq next week with an 18-member assessment team to probe the allegations.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday that he had no evidence to show that US-supplied arms had been used by Iraqi insurgents against US forces, or by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels against Turkish forces.

But he added: “If American-issued weapons have ended up in the hands of criminals in Turkey or terrorists in Turkey, that is not based upon the policy of this department or this government.”

Since January, Kicklighter’s office has been investigating allegations that US arms intended for the Iraqi police are ending up in the wrong hands.

Morrell said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was “deeply troubled by the reports and the allegations.”

“General Kicklighter has informed the secretary that he will remain in-country as long as it takes to find out if any record-keeping problems persist — and, if so, make recommendation to the commanders on the ground how to fix those problems,” the spokesman said.

“There they will join up with teammates already on the ground in order to determine the magnitude of the US military problem in accounting for and controlling weapons provided to the Iraqi security forces.”

Pentagon general counsel Jim Haynes went to Turkey last month for talks on the issue, in response to concerns raised by Turkey’s government with Washington in May.

Turkey has furiously alleged that PKK rebels are using northern Iraq’s Kurdish zone as a base to launch cross-border attacks on its own security forces, and has not ruled out a military incursion into Iraq.

By checking serial numbers, US officials have confirmed that some of the weapons recovered by Turkish police after violent crimes had originally been bought by the Pentagon for distribution in Iraq, the New York Times reported.

It was possible that the weapons had been stolen or lost during firefights with insurgents and smuggled into Turkey after being sold in Iraq’s weapons black market, it quoted officials as saying.

See our last posts on Iraq, Kurdistan, and Turkey.