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US halts drone intelligence program with Turkey due to Syria incursion: report

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The United States has halted a secretive military intelligence cooperation program with Turkey that for years helped Ankara target Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, four US officials told Reuters.

The US decision to indefinitely suspend the program, which has not been previously reported, was made in response to Turkey’s cross-border military incursion into Syria in October, the US officials said, revealing the extent of the damage to ties between the NATO allies from the incident.

The US officials, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the United States late last year stopped flying the intelligence collection missions that targeted the PKK, which both the United States and Turkey classify as terrorists.

The US military had carried out the missions using unarmed drone aircraft, which one official said were flown out of Turkey’s İncirlik Airbase, where the US military has a significant presence.

The US drone flights that took place within the program, in effect since 2007, often zeroed in on mountainous territory in northern Iraq near the Turkish border, another official said.

“This makes the anti-PKK campaign more difficult and more costly for Turkey,” one of the four US officials said.

The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, waging an insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish Southeast. Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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