ANKARA Ñ The United States has quietly shelved its proposal for
Turkey to send up to 10,000 combat troops to Iraq.
Turkish officials and Western diplomatic sources said the Bush
administration has suspended a formal request to Turkey to send troops to
Iraq. They said the suspension came in wake of a Defense Department
recommendation that Turkish troops would only heighten the Sunni insurgency
against the U.S.-led coalition.
The suspension of the U.S. request marks a reversal after months of
efforts to persuade Ankara to send troops to Iraq. Officials said the
administration was surprised by the intense opposition of the Iraqi
Governing Council to the proposal, Middle East Newsline reported.
"First they came, very enthusiastic, and said 'Please do not be late,'"
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday. "And then they saw
that there are many different issues. They have many hesitations
At first, officials said, the Pentagon assessed that the Iraqi
opposition to Turkish deployment was limited to Kurdish representatives on
the council. Later, the entire council, including representatives of the
Turkish-speaking minority, stressed that it opposes the deployment of troops
by any of Iraq's neighbors.
The decision to suspend the U.S. request was taken last week during the
visit by U.S. civilian administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, to Washington.
Bremer discussed the issue with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and diplomatic sources said the three
decided to shelve the U.S. plan for Turkish troops in Iraq.
Turkish officials said the United States has not formally told Ankara of
the decision to suspend the request for troops. But the administration has
urged Turkey to discuss the troop deployment issue with the interim Iraqi
[In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Turkish
and Iraqi officials have already begun meeting on a range of bilateral
issues. "We do think it's important for them to have a dialogue with the
Iraqis," Boucher said on Tuesday. "There are many issues involved, not just
deployment of Turkish troops, but the whole question of relationships with
their neighbors; that it's important for Iraq to explore in this fashion
through having their own direct contacts."]
Earlier this month, Turkey's military General Staff launched
preparations for initial deployment in Iraq during November. But
the Pentagon, which had proposed the deployment of Turkish soldiers along
the Euphrates River, refused to continue talks over such issues as the area
and size of Turkish deployment.
Officials said the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has been
pleased by the U.S. suspension of military talks with Turkey. They said
Erdogan and his aides were increasingly concerned that Turkish troops would
be the target of attacks by Saddam loyalists and Al Qaida.
But Turkey does not plan to withdraw an estimated 4,000 troops from
northern Iraq, officials said. Gul said Turkey's military would remain
deployed in northern Iraq until what he calls the terrorist threat is
eliminated, a reference to the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK.