A senior counter-terrorism police chief in Turkey has blown the whistle on Turkey’s secret sponsorship of ISIS in order to appease NATO.
Ahmet Said Yayla served as former Chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Operations Division of Turkish National Police between 2010 and 2012. He says that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported the Islamic State (ISIS) as a means to expand Turkey’s influence in the region and sideline his political opponents.
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In interviews with INSURGE intelligence, Yayla exclusively revealed that he had personally witnessed evidence of high-level Turkish state sponsorship of ISIS during his police career, which eventually led him to resign. He decided to become a whistleblower after Erdogan’s authoritarian crackdown following the failed military coup in July. This is the first time that the former counter-terrorism chief has spoken on the record to reveal what he knows about Turkish government aid to Islamist terror groups.
The former Turkish National Police counter-terrorism chief is speaking out at considerable risk to his own family. As part of Erdogan’s crackdown after the failed military coup in July, Yayla’s 19 year old son was prevented from leaving the country, and eventually arrested on terrorism charges.
When I first spoke to Yayla, he had just launched his new book in Washington DC, ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate, co-authored with Professor Anne Speckhard, a NATO and Pentagon consultant specialising in the psychology of radicalisation.
“Turkey is supporting Islamic State and other jihadist groups,” said Yayla.
“I know this firstly as a former chief of Turkish national police and what I experienced there, which is the reason I ended up leaving the police. And secondly, due to former ISIS terrorists whom I have interviewed as part of my research into the jihadist phenomenon — many of whom say that ISIS enjoys official Turkish support.”
The police chief ordered to guard ISIS
But it is Ahmet Yayla’s personal experience of Turkish official sponsorship of ISIS that is, perhaps, most damning of all.
“I have several times witnessed with my own eyes and ears the Governor of Sanliurfa [a city next to the Turkey-Syria border] talking to leaders of terrorist groups in Syria,” said Yayla.
In several high-level security meetings involving the chiefs of police, Yayla and his colleagues would wait while the governor finished his phone calls with rebel leaders.
“It was really shocking,” Yayla recalled. “He would openly talk about the situation in Syria, and repeatedly ask over the phone how he could assist in providing whatever they needed, food or medicine, literally whatever they needed.”
Things came to a head when the governor — who is a political appointee of the Ministry of Interior — began demanding that Yayla oversee the protection of hundreds of ISIS fighters who were being shipped into Turkey to receive medical treatment.
“I am the police chief who was asked by the governor to guard ISIS terrorists. And I assigned police officers to this task,” said Yayla. “The official police records of this policy still exist, and can be seen in the assignment programmes. These records cannot be destroyed.”
“I was the officer assigned to have the police guard those terrorists”, he repeated, the disbelief palpable in his tone.
Fighting close to the Turkish border had become so intense from 2013 onwards that hundreds of jihadist rebels had been injured:
“ISIS fighters were being brought across the border into Sanliurfa to be treated in Turkish hospitals. As chief of police, I was being asked by the governor to send my officers to provide 24/7 protection for those wounded terrorists. It got to the point that there were so many ISIS members being treated, I couldn’t even find enough officers to guard those terrorists. We were suffering from a severe shortage of manpower because of these demands. When it reached that point, I had no choice but to tell the governor, you know, that I really don’t care about this anymore, and I told him, look, I don’t have the manpower, the city is suffering — I can’t do my job.”
The governor was upset, said Yayla, but due to the sheer volume of ISIS fighters coming into Turkey for medical treatment, his demands could not be met.
“It was so crazy you could see ambulances coming in with European plates carrying ISIS members,” said Yayla.
“In fact, al-Baghdadi’s deputy, Fadhil Ahmed al Hayali, was wounded by an American bombardment. He lost his leg, and he was brought into one of the hospitals and treated. After that he went back to Syria. No one charged any money for the treatment. It was completely free.”
The policy of providing free medical assistance to ISIS fighters lasted for two years until 2015. Pressure from President Obama to close the borders led Erdogan to wind down the policy that year.