Turkey continues to withdraw ‘security’ troops in Iraq, says defense minister

Turkey continues to withdraw ‘security’ troops in Iraq, says defense minister

ANKARA - Anadolu Agency
Turkey continues to withdraw ‘security’ troops in Iraq, says defense minister

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Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said the withdrawal of “security” troops stationed in the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq is continuing, while the troops deployed for training purposes were to stay at Bashiqa.

“Our training troops are there [in the Bashiqa camp]; the withdrawal of the other troops [who provide protection for the training officers] is continuing,” said Yılmaz on Dec. 25, answering a question at the parliament where he attended a session on higher education.

Relations between Turkey and Iraq have been tense since Dec. 4, when Turkey deployed additional troops, hundreds of commandos and a small mechanized unit to the Bashiqa camp, which lies near Islamic State of Iraq and the Iraq (ISIL)-held Mosul. The move infuriated Iraq to the extent that it brought the issue before the United Nations Security Council, asking it to use it powers to force Turkey to pull its troops from Iraq.

Turkey withdrew a portion of its troops from the Bashiqa camp more than a week after their deployment but this effort failed to calm Iraq’s anger over the issue. 

Turkey announced Dec. 19 that it would continue to remove its troops from Bashiqa upon insistent appeals from Washington, which included a phone call from U.S. President Barack Obama to Erdoğan a day before.

On Dec. 20, Baghdad welcomed Turkey’s move to pull the troops but said it would keep up efforts at the U.N. to achieve a full withdrawal. 

“What has been reported in the media is a step in the right direction,” Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was quoted as saying in a statement from his office. “We will carry on our process with the Security Council until a full withdrawal is achieved.”

On Dec. 24, Iraq Defense Ministry said Turkish troops stationed in northern Iraq were far from being pulled out, despite Turkey’s promises to withdraw the additional troops stationed at the camp on Dec. 4. 

“In fact, there is no Turkish troop withdrawal. There are just statements from Ankara,” said Iraqi defense ministry spokesman Nasir Nouri Mohammed, Russian news agency TASS reported. According to the spokesman, Ankara’s forces “only slightly relocated near the same positions.”

This cannot even be called a “partial withdrawal,” Nouri Mohammed said, let alone a full withdrawal of the Turkish contingent.