U.S.-Turkey agreement allows 20,000 U.S. troops for now

Thursday, January 30, 2003

ANKARA The United States has concluded an agreement for military deployment in Turkey during any war against Iraq.

Turkish government sources said Washington will be allowed to deploy up to 20,000 troops in Turkey. The sources said the troop deployment would be short-term and presented as a right of passage from Turkey into Iraq.

The agreement marks a compromise between a U.S. request for the stationing of nearly 90,000 troops in Turkey and Ankara's offer to host 15,000 troops. The sources said Turkey would consider additional U.S. troops in the future.

Ankara's consent to the arrival of U.S. troops came as the Turkish military command ordered an alert of its forces along the Iraqi border, Middle East Newsline reported. A military statement issued on Wednesday said the order was meant for Turkey's Second Army and would include the deployment of additional armored vehicles and supplies.

Under the agreement, the sources said, U.S. troops would not be stationed in the country. Instead, the U.S. troops would arrive in southern Turkey and make their way into Iraq through the Khabour border gate.

The agreement also allows U.S. naval vessels to be anchored in Turkish waters in the eastern Mediterranean. The vessels are expected to arrive within a few days and will contain heavy weapons, radar and communications systems.

The sources said the agreement, confirmed by a U.S. official, requires further government scrutiny and parliamentary approval. The Islamic-dominated parliament has opposed a U.S. military presence in Turkey.

On Wednesday, the Turkish television NTV channel reported that the United States has prepared a contingency plan to airlift troops to northern Iraq to deal with the prospect of Turkish refusal to deploy additional U.S. soldiers. Three air fields have been prepared for use in northern Iraq.

The United States will also establish several logistics and supply centers for the arrival of U.S. troops. The centers will be set up in Khabour, Nseibin and other points near the Iraqi border.

In addition, Turkey plans to establish 18 camps to along the Iraqi border to contain the expected flow of refugees from northern Iraq. Turkey has also asked the United States for PAC-2 missile defense batteries to defend strategic facilities from an Iraqi missile attack.

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