US Army’s Maxie McFarland Vacates: Turkey Goes for US COIN/HTS

Maxie McFarland, an unrelenting supporter of the US Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS 1.0), has left his position as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), G-2.According to TRADOC Public Affairs Officer Greg Mueller, “Mr. McFarland has left government service after many years of dedicated service as both an Army officer and a senior government executive. Mr. McFarland made a personal decision to leave government service and pursue other opportunities.”

The former US Army Colonel managed to keep HTS 1.0 funded, marketed, and publicized with a positive spin–thanks mainly to the exceptional media/presentation skills of Montgomery McFate–during its most troubled years from 2008 to early 2011. But turbulence and dissension was the story behind the scenes. HTS personnel within the program were alleging fraud, waste, abuse, sexual harassment, mismanagement of recruiting and training, gun running, and much more. The stories were often tragic and astonishing; the stuff of movies.

Their comments were dutifully reported and carried by many media outlets in and out of the USA. It was HTS personnel that were largely responsible for the initiation of internal US Army investigations of the program, plus independent assessments (one mandated by the US Congress) by the Center for Naval Analyses and the Institute for Defense Analysis. The American Anthropological Association added its weight officially disavowing HTS. That was the least of McFarland’s problems.

Former HTS Technology Director Colonel Daniel Wolfe, USA (Ret.) and a principal of the Asymmetric Warfare Division, ARCIC, is said to be facing a bumpy road ahead due to actions whilst at HTS.

According to some observers, it’s not clear how much training has changed since Colonel Sharon Hamilton took over as HTS 2.0 program manager. Supposedly, the regional studies component of HTS 2.0 training, considered by many students to be the best part, was removed and has not been replaced. Improvements apparently include training that may reduce the “liability factor” of civilians working outside the wire and possibly help ensure their safety. A course on weapons familiarization appears to have been introduced. Others say it doesn’t appear that a “whole lot has changed although time spent training has been reduced.”

According the HTS website, the Pentagon/OSD continues to plan for an aggressive expansion of the Human Terrain System 2.0/MAP HT across the geographic combatant commands. There is a “DIA and USD-I initiative to expand socio-cultural capabilities beyond CENTCOM to [AFRICOM], EUCOM, PACOM, and SOUTHCOM.” HTS 2.0 is a key part of the USA’s counterinsurgency campaign in the CENTCOM AOR against assorted insurgent groups.

HTS 2.0 expansion into SOUTHCOM means it will join in the War on Drugs.

Planners maintain their intent to sell HTS 2.0 to other militaries around the globe.

For example, Turkey has been interacting with the US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center for some time now in an effort to revamp its counterinsurgency doctrine. “January 2010 COIN consultations with the Turkish [Army] highlights the desire of partner countries to exchange operational insights, better understand counterinsurgency concepts, and build COIN capabilities,” said the director of the Center. That means foreign military officers are being exposed to, one hopes, the best elements/practices of HTS 2.0 and its MAP HT capabilities.

“In January 2010, US COIN Center principals met with the Chief of the Turkish delegation, MG Orhan Turfan (Chief, General Plans and Policies, Turkish Army) and U.S. lead, BG Ed Donnelly (DAMO-SS). Discussions focused on developing agility in leaders and soldiers…to operate in complex Operating Environment through education, introduction of non-military conditions…in training environments, and stressing the importance of situational understanding prior to task execution in order not to solve the wrong problem. MG Turfan was interested in processes to disseminate lessons across the force. Proposed agreed to actions (ATAs) under consideration include: adding Turkish Army POCs to distribution of monthly COIN SITREP; invitation of Turkish officers to participate in future COIN Leader Workshops; COIN Center engagement with Turkish ILE students (ongoing); and potential Subject Matter Exchanges tied to implementation of NATO [meaning US] COIN doctrine. Next step: continue collaboration with the Turkish Army by executing ATA’s from HQDA.”

Turkey’s mandatory military service explained

Mandatory military service is one of the important issues for Turkish citizens and dual citizens. Sara’s son is one of them.


Dear Mr. Orhan,

I have seen that you are able to offer advice regarding military service in Turkey. I am writing on behalf of my son, 37, who is considered to be a Turkish citizen and therefore subject to military service because his father is Turkish. Despite not having been born in Turkey, never having lived in the country and not speaking the language, he has apparently been labeled a deserter and is subject to arrest should he decide to visit Turkey. 

We only found this out by accident and are most concerned that, through no fault of his own, he is now deemed a criminal and unable to visit relatives in Turkey. Is it correct that he is now regarded as a deserter? What can you advise? Thank you for any guidance you can give. Kind regards. Sara


Dear Sara,

Military service in Turkey is mandatory for all male citizens (including dual citizens) between 20-41 years of age (with some exceptions such as handicapped, mentally ill or unhealthy people). The duration of basic military service varies: 15 months for privates (elementary or high school graduates), 12 months for reserve officers (university graduates) and six months for short-term privates (those who have earned a university degree and have not been enlisted as reserve officers).

For Turkish citizens (including dual citizens) who have lived or worked abroad for at least three years, a basic military training of three weeks is offered instead of the full-term military service if they pay a certain fee in foreign currency (currently set at 5,112 euros).

As I emphasized above, as a Turkish citizen, your son must also comply with the mandatory military service in Turkey. However, if he has completed military service in certain other countries, he can substitute that for his military service in Turkey. These countries are Germany, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Greece, Tunisia and Syria.

If he has not completed his military service in another country, the most appropriate option is the basic military training. He pays 5,112 euros and completes the mandatory three weeks of military service. Otherwise, he is considered a “deserter” and he will be taken to do his military service when he comes to Turkey.


Turkey expands diplomatic activity to resolve Kurdish issue

Turkey's Cobra IFV is often used in the figth against terrorism in the country's southeast.

Turkish officials have been conducting intense diplomatic efforts on various fronts as complementary moves to recent and visible steps taken by the government and pro-Kurdish opposition figures as well as key state institutions to bring about a permanent end to the fight between Turkish security forces and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Interior Minister Beşir Atalay discussed measures to end PKK terror and resolve the Kurdish issue with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in Arbil on Sunday.

Atalay’s visit will be followed by a visit from National Security Council (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, who recently went to the US for talks on the PKK issue. Fidan is expected to visit Arbil within the next few weeks for talks on the same issue.

Turkish newspaper Taraf reported on Tuesday that Fidan paid a secret visit to Baghdad earlier this month before visiting Washington. In Baghdad, Fidan held talks with the intelligence chief of the federal government, Taraf reported, citing “Ankara-based reliable sources.”

In a July interview with Today’s Zaman, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he backed the PKK’s possible farewell to arms so that it could transform itself into a political actor, and added that any campaign against terrorism should include political and social measures along with military ones.

“If the PKK lays down arms and becomes a political party, this would be a positive development. As long as there are no weapons and no terror, countries in the region, including Turkey, can have dialogue with it. If it lays down arms, we can also welcome back 1,500 Syrian-origin terrorists within the PKK,” Assad said at the time.

As of yesterday in Ankara, Atalay was holding security talks with a US military delegation led by the top US commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin. Austin was also expected to hold talks with the Turkish General Staff.

Speaking to reporters ahead of his meeting with the US general, Atalay told reporters that he will visit Syria on Saturday for talks on the PKK issue.

Atalay, meanwhile, denied news reports suggesting that he had disclosed that Turkish authorities have been holding talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan during his talks with Barzani.

“However, our northern Iraq visit is important. Very important issues have been discussed. As a matter of fact, at the moment we are focused on this matter with all of its dimensions. Today’s meeting will be a follow-up to these [talks],” Atalay added, referring to his meeting with Austin.

“Afterwards, there will be other meetings too. On Saturday, we are going to Syria. We will discuss other parts of this issue with Syria. Later, we will have other visits. All of us have been exerting the utmost effort to resolve this problem of Turkey,” he said, without elaborating.

The reports, which were firmly ruled out by Atalay, cited the records of the meeting between Atalay and Barzani kept by Iraqi Kurdish officials as a source.

“We hold meetings, including with İmralı [an explicit reference to Öcalan as he is serving a life sentence in a prison on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara], to resolve the issue. İmralı is close to us at the point of resolution,” Atalay was quoted as saying by Milliyet on Tuesday.

Atalay said, however, he had not used an expression such as “We met with Öcalan.” He also denied that he had told Barzani that “Öcalan has actually responded positively to the Turkish government’s policies for resolving the issue.”

The PKK, which took up arms in 1984 to fight for an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey, is listed as a terrorist organization by a large majority of the international community including the United States and the European Union.

All recent hectic contacts among Iraqi, Turkish and US officials indicate that a trilateral security committee was first established back in November 2008 to coordinate the three countries’ efforts to eliminate the PKK, which infiltrates Turkey from its bases in northern Iraq.

In April, the US Embassy in Ankara announced that officials from Turkey, the United States and Iraq had agreed on a joint plan to combat the PKK. The agreement was the result of a trilateral security committee meeting held in İstanbul on April 11.

The details of the action plan have so far not been disclosed by any of the parties. At the time, the embassy statement only said: “The Trilateral Action Plan sets out the guidelines for the future work of the Committee and contains the actions that should be taken to facilitate joint efforts against the PKK. Participants have expressed their commitment to rapidly work on the implementation of the trilateral action plan.”

Atalay, Iraqi Minister of State for National Security Shirwan al-Waili and US Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, chief of staff of US Forces-Iraq, led the delegations participating in the meeting. It was the fifth meeting of the trilateral committee.

Later in July, as part of the trilateral mechanism, Turkish, US and Iraqi military officials met to discuss joint measures against the PKK. The meeting in the Turkish border town of Silopi involved commanders in charge of border security from Turkey and Iraq and a commander from the Baghdad headquarters of the US forces in Iraq; it was the first time that the Iraqi border commander and the Turkish corps commander responsible for the Turkey-Iraq border had met.