Friday, February 29, 2008

Turkey Pulls Back Troops From Iraq

By Cernig

After saying no-one was going to dictate timetables to them, the Turks have gone ahead and pulled back their forces from Iraq, where they've been hunting Kurdish PKK terrorists.
A statement by Turkey's armed forces General Staff denied any foreign influence on the decision, which came a day after U.S President George W. Bush urged a swift end to the offensive.

"There was no question of completely liquidating the terrorist organisation, but Turkey has shown the organisation that northern Iraq is not a safe haven for them," the General Staff said.

Turkey sent thousands of soldiers into mountainous northern Iraq on February 21 to crush rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who use the region as a base for attacks on Turkish territory.

"It was determined that the aims set at the start of the operation had been achieved," the General Staff said in its statement. "Our units returned to their bases (in Turkey) on the morning of February 29."

Announcing the withdrawal ahead of the General Staff, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari welcomed the decision to leave.

But Turkey's Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin, quoted by TV networks, said Ankara reserved the right to send troops again into Iraq if needed. A parliamentary mandate allowing the army to stage cross-border operations only expires in October.
The assumption is going to be that Bush and Gates managed to bend Turkey to their will - but I've a feeling it was far more about a hasty decision based on weather forecasts and reports of the Kurdish regional government mobilizing two brigades of peshmerga. And the General Staff statement is probably correct in at least this much - this was always a reconnaisance in force as preparation for a far larger Spring offensive. This one isn't over yet.

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