U.S. general seeks Turkish role in Mosul fight

Gen. Lloyd Austin, who is overseeing the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, visited Ankara to determine Turkey’s role in Mosul

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As Iraqi forces pushed into Tikrit, a top U.S. general visited Turkey on Wednesday to seek a Turkish role in the upcoming operation aiming to retake Mosul from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group after its militants seized the city in a lightening offensive in June last year.

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, who is overseeing the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, met with the Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel in Ankara to convey his expectations to Turkey, the local Today’s Zaman reported.

Özel reportedly expressed Turkey’s stance to Austin, who also heads U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). However, the newspaper did not detail further information about their meeting.

While both Ankara and Washington agreed to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, Turkey’s role in Iraq is not as clear. But with Austin’s visit, Turkey’s possible role in the operation has come under the spotlight.

On Wednesday, Iraqi military forces and Shiite militias entered central Tikrit, declaring it “liberated” from ISIS after a 10 day offensive on the hometown of former President Saddam Hussein.

After clearing Tikrit of ISIS, Iraqi forces will make thier way through to Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

Last week, a U.S. Central Command official said that an Iraqi and Kurdish military force of 20,000 to 25,000 troops is being prepared to recapture Mosul, in an operation slated for April or May.

Meanwhile, the meeting between the U.S. and Turkish military officials comes after Washington criticized the Iranian role in Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Wednesday that the presence of Iranian advisers in the Iraq battle for Tikrit is “concerning” to the United States.

The presence of Iranian military advisers in that force “is something that is concerning to us in particular because the sectarian danger in Iraq is the principal thing that can unravel the campaign against ISIS,” Carter said.

Iran backs a number of militias that are fighting the radical group ISIS which holds large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

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