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Turkey May Hire 500,000 Career Soldiers to Fight Kurds

About 120 Kurdish rebels, 43 soldiers killed since March 2010. Erdogan vowed to 'annihilate' PKK. Conflict has cost 40,000 lives in 26 years.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 7/1/2010, 6:04 PM / Last Update: 7/1/2010, 6:47 PM

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Turkey is making preparations to hire 500,000 career soldiers in order to ratchet up the war against Kurdish rebels, Turkish daily newspaper Aksam reported Wednesday.

State Minister and Chief EU Negotiator Egemen Bagis said during a visit to Brussels that the move would also contribute to his country's struggle with unemployment.

An absolute number of career soldiers to be hired had not been determined, according to Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. He said Wednesday that both the government and the military were conducting studies on the matter, and "what shape (the new structure) will take will be known with the conclusion of these technical studies."

The current structure of the Turkish army contains both professional and conscripted soldiers. However, Gonul said a new law might be needed in order to switch to a professional army. 

Turkish General Staff Secretary-General Ferit Guler said Friday that "preparatory work has begun to change the border units," particularly in the southeast where government forces have been clashing with the PKK for 26 years in battles which have so far cost the lives of 40,000 people. This number is about ten times the number of people killed in the conflict between Israel and Arab terrorists in Gaza since 1967. 

On June 19, 12 soldiers were killed when the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacked a mobile military unit in Hakkari province. 
 
Following that attack, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was determined to fight the PKK "to the end,” vowing: "Our fight will continue until the terrorist organization has been annihilated." The Turkish military said it had killed about 120 Kurdish rebels since March, while 43 members of the Turkish security forces had also died. 

Erdogan's party has come under political attack for allegedly selling out to terrorists, because of past efforts to promote a softer approach to the conflict with the PKK.