The Turkish military has been in a civil war with Kurdish separatists, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), since the 1980s. The 2011 strikes are believed to have been targeted at this group. But instead, it was civilian smugglers that were killed, sparking widespread protest in the country.
Ethnic Kurds constitute approximately 18% of Turkey’s population, with many demanding political autonomy. In 2001, the U.S. and E.U. designated the PKK a terrorist organization.
U.S. drone strikes in support of Turkey’s military have taken place since November 2007, when the Bush administration created a “Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell” in Ankara, in an effort to strengthen ties with the Turkish government.