The Republican People's Party (CHP) has recently fallen apart over debates on whether the Turkish military should collaborate with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) during Operation Olive Branch, launched on Jan. 20, against the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), as mixed voices emerged from within the party.
CHP Istanbul Deputy Dursun Çiçek slammed fellow party authorities who have recently criticized the cooperation with FSA elements, saying that working together with the FSA in Operation Olive Branch is necessary. "The TSK [Turkish Armed Forces] should act together with the FSA against terrorist groups that imperialist powers use in the region. It is an assurance for the Turkish military that those who know the region well lead the way," Çiçek said earlier this week.
Çiçek's statement came shortly after several CHP authorities harshly targeted the FSA. Firstly, CHP Deputy Chairman Öztürk Yılmaz alleged that all FSA fighters came from al-Qaida. In addition, CHP Istanbul Deputy Eren Erdem called FSA elements a "pack of dogs." Furthermore, CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu argued that the Turkish military was hiding behind the FSA in Operation Olive Branch.
Defying the CHP chairman and other figures against the FSA, Çiçek said that it is absolutely normal to take advantage of the FSA's experience in the region. "They are the ones who know about the attitude of locals or who is the terrorist and who is a local. It is normal to make use of locals in the region in such an offensive. Therefore, I think it is early to debate on the FSA," he added.
CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu also recently sparked debate after he called on the Turkish military and the FSA to not move into the center of Afrin. "[The Turkish military] should go so far as to be able to establish Turkey's security but I do not find it right at all to enter Afrin," Kılıçdaroğlu said earlier this week.
The Istanbul deputy disagreed with Kılıçdaroğlu on that issue as well. Stressing that the Turkish military is the most knowledgeable institution in this regard, Çiçek said: "I think trained commanders in the region would make the best decision on the issue. These things are related to tactics."
President and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also recently slammed Kılıçdaroğlu for coming out regarding the future of the Afrin offensive. "Do we need your permission? We have the permission of our nation. We will fulfill the instructions of our people," President Erdoğan said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the intra-party race in the CHP for seats in the Central Executive Board (MYK) continues. According to reports in Turkish media, Kılıçdaroğlu will meet with party assembly members over the weekend. Five names are expected to hold onto their posts, including Seyit Torun, who is responsible for local administrations, Haluk Koç, Tekin Bingöl, Bülent Tezcan and Lale Karabıyık. In addition, Selin Sayek Böke, Hakkı Süha Okay, Ünal Çeviköz and Oğuz Kaan Salıcı may be included in the MYK.