Iraq wants Turkish ground troops out, not advisers

Turkish soldiers pray during the funeral of slain soldier Mehmet Yalcin Nane, killed Thursday by ISIS militants when they attacked a Turkish military outpost at the border with Syria. (File photo: AP)

Baghdad’s demand that Ankara withdraw troops it says entered Iraq illegally applies to “Turkish armed forces” in the country’s north, but excludes advisers, the foreign minister said Monday.

Baghdad announced the day before that Turkey had 48 hours to remove the forces or face “all available options,” including recourse to the U.N. Security Council, while Ankara has downplayed the deployment.

“The Iraqi demand (for the withdrawal) is only related to the violation recorded by the presence of Turkish armed forces without coordination with Iraq,” Ibrahim al-Jaafari told a joint news conference alongside his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

But that demand does not apply to Turkish trainers, who have been working with various Iraqi forces in the country’s north for some time.

“The advisers are another issue; there are advisers from a number of countries and we accepted the principle of advisers but not the principle of ground forces entering Iraqi territory,” Jaafari said.

While Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has repeatedly said Iraq needs all the help it can get to fight ISIS, he is walking a fine line between receiving that support and projecting sovereignty.

Turkey has troops at a base in the Bashiqa area in Nineveh province to train Iraqi Sunni volunteers hoping to retake the nearby city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as others military sites within Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has downplayed the recent deployment as “routine rotation activity” associated with the training effort, and as “reinforcement against security risks”.

“This is not a new camp,” Davutoglu said.

Rather, it is a pre-existing “training facility established to support local volunteer forces’ fight against terrorism”, set up in coordination with the Iraqi defense ministry, he said.

But Iraq’s Kurdish region, which has forces in the area, said that Turkey had sent military experts and supplies to expand the base.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47