BAGHDAD, Feb. 29 — Turkey announced Friday that it had pulled its troops out of northern Iraq, ending an eight-day invasion to pursue Kurdish guerrillas that raised tensions with the Iraqi government and fears of a regional conflict. The withdrawal came one day after both President Bush and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged a swift end to the offensive.
Turkish officials denied they had been pressured into ending their country’s most extensive operation in northern Iraq in more than a decade. They said they had completed their objective of weakening the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which for decades has fought for Kurdish rights and autonomy in Turkey from mountain bases in northern Iraq.
“The Turkish Armed Forces decided when to begin and end the operation on its own deliberation and its decision is not influenced from outside or inside,” Turkey’s chief of general staff, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, said in a statement.
The US is not protecting their most reliable ally in Iraq. More quagmire and mayhem to come.
SAMSUN, Turkey – Turkey’s military said it had sent ground troops into northern Iraq Thursday night in an operation aimed at weakening Kurdish militants there, the first confirmed ground incursion since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.
The Turkish General Staff announced the action on its website on Friday. It gave no details of how many troops went or how long they would stay, and said only that they would return once goals had been achieved. Private NTV television reported 10,000 troops were involved and said they had pushed about six miles into Iraqi territory.
A Turkish analyst, commenting on NTV, said the attack appeared aimed at dealing the Kurdish militants, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, a surprise blow before the snow melts and the guerillas make their traditional spring advance into Turkey to attack Turkish troops. The analyst said the operation would likely last between three and four days.
It was not clear what, if any, role the United States played in the incursion, which set one of its closest allies in a troubled region, Turkey, a NATO member that shares borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria, against another, Iraqi Kurds, the most important American partners in the Iraq war.
ANKARA, Turkey – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey would not be deterred by the possible diplomatic consequences if it decides to stage a cross-border offensive into Iraq against Kurdish rebels.“If such an option is chosen, whatever its price, it will be paid,” Erdogan told reporters in response to a question about the international repercussions of such a decision, which would strain ties with the United States and Iraq. “There could be pros and cons of such a decision, but what is important is our country’s interests.”
Kurdish guerrillas have launched a clandestine war in north-western Iran, ambushing troops as they seek Western backing to secure an ethnic homeland.
|Kurdish fighters in training. Iran claims that the US is secretly supporting Kurdish attacks upon its infrastructure and troops
In retaliation, the Iranian army has carried out a series of counter-attacks in the mountains, which span the border with Iraq.
Murat Karayilan, a Kurdish guerilla commander, told The Daily Telegraph that Teheran had originally tried to recruit the outlawed groups to fight coalition troops in Iraq.
“The US and Britain came to Iraq to establish a democratic system, but this scared the Iranians, so they negotiated with us and offered many things to attack the coalition,” he said under a canopy of trees near his headquarters on Iraqi territory in the Qandil mountains.
By Hidir Goktas and Gareth Jones
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s prime minister gave the green light on Tuesday for possible military action in northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels there, drawing a warning from the United States, which fears wider regional instability.
Tayyip Erdogan’s government prepared to request parliament’s approval for an incursion into the mainly Kurdish region, Turkish private broadcasters CNN Turk and NTV reported.
Washington urged Ankara to hold off on unilateral action, fearing it could destabilize Iraq’s most peaceful area and potentially the wider region.