Turkish defense minister pledges support to Iraq, Peshmerga
Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, center left, speaks as his Iraqi counterpart Khalid al-Obeidi, center, listens during a press conference at the Iraqi defense ministry headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, March 4, 2015. AP Photo.During his visit to Iraq on March 4, Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yılmaz said Turkey is ready to give all kinds of “intelligence and logistical support” to the neighboring country’s government in the fight against terrorism.
“In addition to this support, we are ready to help the Iraqi army and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces with equipment and training,” Yılmaz said, speaking during a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Halit el-Ubeydi in Baghdad.
“We will stand with Iraq if there is an operation to retake Mosul,” Anadolu Agency also quoted him as saying.
The Iraqi army and Kurdish forces, in cooperation with local Shiite and Sunni militias, are preparing to initiate a major offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the coming weeks, in order to retake control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
After two C-130 Turkish military planes landed in Muthenna Air Base in Baghdad on March 3, Defense Minister Yılmaz vowed that Turkey will continue with its military aid to the Iraqi government.
He also said Ankara is ready to donate humanitarian aid and set up camps for those forced to leave Mosul in the event of a military operation.
Iraq has plunged into a security vacuum since June 2014, when ISIL stormed the northern province of Mosul and declared what it called a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Iraq says it alone will decide on offensive
Meanwhile, Iraq’s defense minister has said that only Baghdad will decide the time and scale of an attack to recapture Mosul, after U.S. officials sent conflicting signals about the offensive, Reuters reported.
“No one [else] has anything to do with it. This is our battle, the battle of the Iraqi army. The role of the U.S.-led coalition is to provide air support, and this is agreed upon,” el-Ubeydi said.
Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, is close to the border with Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said Ankara sent two planes to Baghdad this week carrying military equipment requested by Iraq.