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Thursday, September 15, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Turkey plans possible ground invasion of N. Iraq before winter

ANKARA — Turkey may be preparing for an imminent invasion of Iraq.


Officials said the military and government have been working on plans for a ground attack on Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq. They said thousands of infantry troops would be backed by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in an operation coordinated with the Baghdad government.

"A ground operation could be conducted at any time, depending on negotiations with the neighboring country [Iraq]," Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said.

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Officials said Turkey, amid nearly daily air attacks, was conducting high-level talks with Iraq for a joint operation against the Kurdish Workers Party. They said the discussions included a counter-insurgency commitment by the Kurdish Regional Government, accused of harboring PKK.

"An evaluation is still in the works," Sahin told a briefing on Sept. 13. "But our operations continue to battle crime and criminals on land, as well as maintaining control. A cross-border incursion may be conducted depending on talks with the neighboring countries.

Officials said Turkey has been sending special forces into Iraq's Kandil mountains to search for PKK targets. They said the forces were being aided by unmanned aerial vehicles supplied by Israel.

"These are matters not to be discussed but to be done," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said. "It will happen when the time comes, and the prime minister and the government will decide and instruct the relevant authorities to act."

Officials said the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was told that a Turkish invasion must be launched over the next month before winter conditions begin in Kandil. The government has authority from parliament for an invasion of Turkey until Oct. 17.

On Sept. 12, the government and military held a security summit in Ankara in which a ground invasion of Iraq was discussed. Officials said the Foreign Ministry relayed requests to Baghdad as well as KRG for help against the PKK. KRG was said to control a force of nearly 100,000 in the north.

"Within or outside of this authority, Turkey is capable of making any decision on incursions regarding security reasons," Arinc said.

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