ANKARA — A multitude of asymmetrical threats that have shattered Turkey's homeland-security concept over the past year have forced the NATO ally into prioritizing its shorter-term defense spending in favor of anti-terror and anti-riot gear.
The shift began last July when the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK in its Kurdish acronym) ended a two-year ceasefire with Ankara, followed by perpetual attacks on selected Turkish targets by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which, despite some recent losses of territory, still controls large swathes of land in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
The Turkish government says it lost over 600 police officers and troops in terror attacks since July 2015. Nearly 300 civilians have been killed in urban terror attacks since then. Ankara also claims it has killed nearly 8,000 PKK and ISIL terrorists over the past year.
In the latest attack, three ISIL suicide bombers of Central Asian origin killed 45 and injured hundreds at Istanbul's main airport, Ataturk, on June 28.
"Homeland security is the present-day top priority in directing defense spending," said one senior Defense Ministry official. "Conventional threats have a longer-term vision [and] priority, given the circumstances."
Not all the threats to Turkey's homeland security are coming from beyond the country's borders. Most ISIL suicide bombers in attacks over the past year have been identified as Turkish nationals. A Pew Research Center study in November 2015 found that 27 percent of Turks do not have an unfavourable opinion of the jihadist group. That makes over 20 million people in a country of nearly 79 million people.
All that has put anti-riot and asymmetrical warfare procurement at the forefront of Turkey's shopping list. There is a list of urgent security requirements [a copy of which was shown to Defense News]. The list includes 370,000 gas canisters, 100,000 gas grenades, 1.5 million pieces of ammunition for [Type-2] assault rifles and 10,000 rifle grenades.
Some items on the shopping list will allure non-western producers, Turkish industry sources say. For example, Brazilian producers could be a strong competitor in gas canisters. They won similar contracts from the Turkish government before. Chinese, Indian, [other] Asian and Latin American producers could be an option in assault rifle ammunitions, the sources say.
"This means that, with its anti-terror fight and authoritarian anti-riot practices, Turkey is fast becoming a lucrative market for the world's mostly non-western producers," said one Ankara-based security analyst who asked not to be named.
One senior official from Turkey's defense procurement office, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (or SSM in its Turkish acronym), said that other advanced technology systems also would be acquired swiftly.
The official said that these will include thermal imaging systems designed to detect bomb threats "even behind a wall;" long-distance, explosive-detection systems; hyper-spectral cameras and milimeter-wave scanners.
"Such advanced systems should come into our inventory from Western manufacturers," the procurement official said. "We are trying to draw a roadmap [to fight asymmetrical threats] based on an optimal combination of ammos, including smart ones, and advanced security systems."
The PKK has been fighting a violent war against Ankara since 1984, leaving more than 40,000 people dead. ISIL, on the other hand, has started to attack Turkish targets since July 2015, and its bomb attacks have claimed hundreds of lives.
Turkey last year officially joined the U.S.-led international military campaign against ISIL. The government previously was under suspicion of secretly aiding the jihadists in order to topple Ankara's worst regional nemesis, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Burak Ege Bekdil was the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.