Analysis: Ankara’s approach to intelligence in ‘Century of Türkiye’ - M5 Dergi
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Analysis: Ankara’s approach to intelligence in ‘Century of Türkiye’

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Considering Türkiye’s evolving global influence over the past two decades and security challenges, it is unsurprising that intelligence has become a key focus for enhancement

To protect themselves from internal or external threats and take proactive action against these threats, sovereign entities have historically established intelligence mechanisms.

Historically empires, and states in modern times, have carried out intelligence activities for their political, social, economic or military agendas. This was also the case in the Ottoman Empire and now, in the modern Republic of Türkiye.

According to Turkish state archives, though the information activities for intelligence purposes began around the 16th century, the institutionalization of Ottoman intelligence activities was realized around the 19th century. In modern Türkiye, however, the institutionalization of the spy network began in 1926, when the Cabinet Council decided to “establish a confidential National Security Service (M.E.H.) for safety and defense of the state,” and the first step was taken for what is known as the National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

On Wednesday, MIT marked its 97th anniversary in an event at its new state-of-the-art building known as the “Fortress” in the capital Ankara where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and MIT Director Ibrahim Kalın delivered speeches. Indeed, a lot has changed since the early days of the modern republic that has impacted the operational activities and capability of MIT. Moreover, the effectiveness and operational success of MIT have also been in the spotlight in the past decade. The visible effectiveness and success of spy activities in both domestic and abroad operations have yielded significant results in the country’s fight against external and internal threats, from terrorist activities of the PKK and the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ), drug lords and gangs, to other cyberspace criminal activities.

During his speech, Kalın highlighted that with the ever-growing needs of today, they have implemented multi-vector and multidimensional ways of thinking and methods of action in the fields of combating terrorism, preventing espionage activities in Türkiye, risk management in conflict zones, strategic intelligence, combating organized crime, protecting the cyber homeland and intelligence diplomacy.

Just as the world has become a “global village,” as the term of the last decade described it, new and more complex issues have emerged. From Islamophobia to the rise of extremist nationalism, from cyberspace security to new complexities that emerge with artificial intelligence (AI), new frontiers have arisen for the realm of intelligence as well. This, however, does not mean that they have replaced the conventional and existing problems, as in the war between Ukraine and Russia or the atrocities in Gaza, but they have acted as an added factor to the existing complexities. In other words, the new world has brought new challenges that intelligence has to consider in tackling many levels of threats at home or abroad.

AI: ‘New atomic bomb’

Rightly so, Kalın also pointed out that protecting the cyber homeland is at least as vital as protecting our physical borders in the face of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, deep fakes and other dizzying developments. He actually defined AI as the “atomic bomb of the digital age” and pointed out that if AI does not have boundaries and frameworks, it could become a factor that “directly threatens the future of humanity.”

Where the complexities of today’s world grow by seconds, strong and effective intelligence is a must at all levels. In fact, as Kalın also said during his speech on Wednesday, “Effective diplomacy cannot be done without sound intelligence.”

Given the security challenges that Türkiye faces at home and abroad, coupled with its growing international social, economic and political influence in the past two decades, it should come as no surprise that intelligence has become one of the key areas the Turkish state has focused on for improvement.

“Türkiye is not a country that is composed of only its own borders. And our nation is not a community that is responsible for only the ongoing incidents within these borders. Türkiye’s spheres of both influence and responsibility are much wider,” Erdoğan said during his speech.

As a result of this foreign policy approach, as a country that seeks to maximize the protection of its interests at many levels and in many parts of the world, and as a country that seeks to contribute to global peace and stability in many regions, from Syria, Libya, Palestine and the Horn of Africa to the Balkans and South Caucasus, Türkiye’s focus must remain on having strong intelligence muscle at the core of policy-making in the “Century of Türkiye.”

Source: Daily Sabah / Mehmet Çelik

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