On the night of Aug. 28, Turkish fighter jets joined U.S.-led airstrikes against the self-proclaimed Islamic State for the first time, following through on a long-reluctant commitment to fight the brutal jihadi group. But Ankara’s heightened efforts against the Islamic State have hardly been noticed by many people in Turkey, which is grappling with the deadly renewal of its war with Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey as snap elections loom in the fall.
For Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the growing chaos comes down to one matter alone: the restoration of single-party rule for his Justice and Development Party (AKP), which lost its decade-plus parliamentary majority in June elections.
But while Turkey faces another election cycle and greater involvement in the war against the Islamic State, violence in the country’s southeast has escalated to a level unseen since the most intense days of the three-decade-long conflict between Ankara and the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In the past 40 days, over 70 Turkish security personnel have been killed in attacks orchestrated by the PKK, while more than 80 civilians have been killed in fighting between Kurdish insurgents and Turkish security forces.