Turkey has its plan-B if excluded from Mosul operation: Erdoğan
AA photoTurkey has contingency plans in place if an international coalition does not wish to include it in an upcoming operation to take Iraq’s Mosul from jihadists, the Turkish president has said.
“We are determined to take our place in the coalition forces for the sake of Iraq’s unity and solidarity in Iraq. If the coalition forces do not want Turkey, then we will put our Plan B into force,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a speech in the Central Anatolian province of Konya on Oct. 14.
“If that also does not work, then our Plan C will go into force. The Turkish state is not a tribalistic state. Everyone should know this,” added Erdoğan.
A row recently erupted between Ankara and Baghdad due to the presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq in order to train Iraqi troops in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at a camp in Bashiqa, which is 20 kilometers east of Mosul.
The Iraqi parliament sent a diplomatic note to Turkey’s ambassador on Oct. 4 that declared the troops’ presence there to be illegal, after which Turkey summoned Iraq’s ambassador in Ankara the following day.
Turkey says Iraq invited their troops to come to Iraq to train fighters, but Iraq has denied such claims.
Meanwhile, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was scheduled to visit the United States on Oct. 14 in order to participate in a meeting of the anti-ISIL coalition, according to military sources.
The top commanders of the anti-ISIL coalition forces last convened six months ago.
A planned operation to drive ISIL out of Mosul in Iraq is expected to start within a few days. A Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News that around 1,500 of the 3,000 Turkish-trained forces are expected to participate in the Mosul offensive under the command of the Iraqi army.
Ahead of the Mosul operation, Turkey and Iraq, with the facilitation of the U.S., have been negotiating the mandate of the Turkish forces in the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq, the official stated.
Sources familiar with meetings between Turkey and the U.S. over the Mosul operation told state-run Anadolu Agency that Turkish-trained fighters at the Bashiqa camp would join the upcoming operation in Mosul.
Fighters in Bashiqa will join Iraqi government forces and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) fighters, known as peshmerga, said the sources who wished to remain anonymous.
US opposes PKK involvement in Mosul operation
The U.S. is opposed to the participation of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the campaign to liberate Mosul, the U.S. State Department said Oct. 13.
“We clearly view the PKK as a terrorist organization, so we would not be supporting them” as part of the Mosul campaign, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said during a daily press briefing.
According to Toner, the U.S. distinguishes the PKK from the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and other Kurdish groups in the region. Toner reiterated the U.S.’ stance that they made a “clear delineation” between the PKK, which the U.S. designates as a terror organization and the PYD, which is fighting ISIL on the ground.
Although Turkey and the U.S. have the same position on the PKK, they differ about the PYD.
Ankara considers the PYD an extension of the PKK but the U.S. describes the group as a “reliable partner” on the ground in Syria.
When Toner was asked whether the U.S. would continue to support the Mosul campaign if the Iraqi government wanted to include the PKK among its troops, he declined to comment, saying it was a hypothetical question.
Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın expressed concerns on Oct. 13 about the PKK taking advantage of the Mosul operation and trying to extend its territory in northern Iraq.
Regarding the Turkish troops deployed at Iraq’s Bashiqa camp, Toner reiterated that all anti-ISIL efforts in Iraq should be done in coordination with the Iraqi government.
Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department official told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity on Oct. 13 that Turkish forces had entered Iraq with Baghdad’s consent.
The Turkish military “began to train some of these forces on the ground at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” according to the official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The official stressed that as long as Turkish forces continue to have the consent of Iraq’s government, their presence there is “fine.”
“They need to be coordinated with the Iraqi government,” the source said.