Iraq Calls on Turkey to Withdraw Troops
Baghdad Saturday demanded the immediate withdrawal of forces it said Turkey illegally sent into Iraq, which is struggling to assert its sovereignty while receiving foreign assistance against the Islamic State group.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu played down the military activity as “routine rotation activity” and “reinforcement against security risks”, while also labelling any misinterpretation as a “provocation”.
The Kurdish regional government — which has forces in the area where the Turkish troops deployed and close ties with Ankara — indicated that Turkey aimed to expand the camp.
The troops, whom Baghdad said had tanks and artillery, were sent to a camp near the main IS hub of Mosul, where Turkey has been training Sunni fighters hoping to retake the city from the jihadists.
Turkey has other camps in Iraq but they are inside the official borders of the autonomous Kurdish region.
The base near Mosul is in a disputed area claimed by both Kurdistan and Baghdad.
Facing political pressure as a result of statements by American officials, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has taken an increasingly hard public line on foreign forces in Iraq, terming the deployment of ground combat forces a “hostile act”.
“The Iraqi authorities call on Turkey to… immediately withdraw from Iraqi territory,” a statement from Abadi’s office said.
“We have confirmation that Turkish forces, numbering about one armoured regiment with a number of tanks and artillery, entered Iraqi territory… allegedly to train Iraqi groups, without a request or authorisation from Iraqi federal authorities,” it said.
The deployment “is considered a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” it added.
A local Kurdish commander described the deployment as a routine rotation by Turkish trainers, but a subsequent statement by the Kurdish regional government pointed to increased Turkish activity.
“The Turkish government has over the past few days sent necessary experts and equipment with the aim of expanding this camp,” the statement said.
Mosul, which is predominantly Sunni Arab, is a key centre of IS’s self-proclaimed “caliphate”, but an operation to retake the city remains a distant prospect.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said that Ankara was “establishing a base in the Bashiqa region of Mosul with 600 soldiers”.
Davutoglu denied that, saying: “This is not a new camp