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Turkey, US continue talks on troop pullout from Iraq

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 8/16/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Turkey and the US have ramped up talks on the use of Turkish soil to transfer American troops, arms and equipment out of Iraq by the Aug. 31 deadline President Barack Obama set last year. The pullout plans are proceeding despite high-level concerns about Iraqi troops' readiness to defend the country on their own

Turkey and the United States have increased the frequency of talks on the use of Turkish soil for the transfer of American troops, arms and logistics equipment out of Iraq, sources have said.

“There is no new request from Washington over the withdrawal process and the implementation is going on as it was before,” Turkish Foreign Ministry sources told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday.

Some U.S. military equipment has already been transferred through Turkey since 2009 under an agreement that allows Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base to be used by American forces as a “logistics hub.”

There are reported plans to establish an aerial bridge between Southeast Turkey and the base for the transfer of troops and equipment coming from Iraq. Since there are no plans to transfer heavy equipment through İncirlik, no new agreement is needed to carry out those plans, sources said.

Turkey insisted on a legal document in 2003 to outline the details of the transportation of military equipment to Iraq.

It is not yet clear whether the Americans will only use Turkish airspace and the İncirlik base or if they will also seek to transport heavy equipment overland during the withdrawal process.

When he took office in January 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States would end its combat mission in Iraq on Aug. 31, 2010, retaining a transitional force of up to 50,000 U.S. troops to train and advise Iraqi security forces.

“By the end of August 2010, U.S. forces in Iraq will reduce the total [amount] of equipment in Iraq from 3.4 million pieces in January 2009 to a total of 1.2 million pieces,” the White House said in its “Facts and Figures on Drawdown in Iraq” fact sheet released Aug. 2.

“Most of the troops and equipment are being transported out of Iraq through Kuwait, although Jordan and Turkey are also permitting transit,” it said.

The pullout, however, has been controversial, with Gen. Babaker Shawkat Zebari, the commander of Iraq’s military, warning again Wednesday that his army may not be ready to defend the nation until 2020.

According to the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Inspector General, the U.S. Consulate in Adana “anticipates an increased role in the event of a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq through Turkish territory,” an August report on the U.S. mission in Turkey said.

The İncirlik Air Base is located about 12 kilometers east of the center of Adana.

[HH] Sinirlioğlu to visit US

Turkey’s number-two diplomat, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, is meanwhile set to visit Washington on Monday for routine political consultations. Turkish and American diplomats are expected to discuss a variety of topics, including Turkey-Israeli ties, the Middle East peace process, Iran’s nuclear program, developments in the Caucasus and the American withdrawal process from Iraq.

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