Turkey will have twice as many troops as U.S. in northern Iraq

Friday, February 28, 2003

ANKARA On Thursday, Turkey's government formally agreed to a six-month deployment of more than 60,000 U.S. troops as well as hundreds of aircraft.

Turkish sources said Ankara and Washington have also reached understanding on troop levels in northern Iraq. They said Turkey would be allowed to have twice the number of U.S. troops in the area.

Under the agreement, officials said, the United States would be allowed to deploy 62,000 troops in Turkey for six months, Middle East Newsline reported. Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said the military portion of the accord has been completed and the entire agreement has been scheduled for a vote by parliament on Saturday.

Turkish sources said the memorandum of understanding drafted by Ankara and Washington in February satisfies concerns of the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and the military.

The MoU defines Turkey's military role in northern Iraq, the sources said. They said Turkey will have command over its troops in Iraq and will coordinate and cooperate fully with U.S. commanders. A Turkish military liasion was sent to Qatar to ensure round-the-clock coordination with U.S. Central Command.

"The forces of the two countries will carry out their duties under their respective national commands," the MoU was quoted as saying.

The troops would be accompanied by tanks, armored personnel carriers and fighter-jets based in up to six military bases in Turkey. Officials said the more than 300 U.S. aircraft would be allowed to arrive in Turkey. They would comprise 255 fixed-wing aircraft and 65 helicopters.

In return, officials said, Turkey would receive a compensation package worth about $20 billion. Turkish Economy Minister Ali Babacan said this would comprise a grant of $6 billion dollars as well as an $8.5 billion loan that would be offered to Ankara as soon as the war against Iraq begins. The rest of the package would await congressional approval.

The sources said the MoU, which has yet to be signed, fulfills Ankara's demand that the thousands of U.S. troops planned for deployment in Turkey will be under Turkish law and be confined to specified areas.

'Turkey and the United States have reached a consensus on military matters concerning Iraq because Ankara got what it wanted from the United States in this area," analyst Murat Celik wrote in the Star daily.

"We've substantially completed the negotiations with the Turkish government on the economic, political and military documents that will outline the U.S.-Turkish cooperation with respect to Iraq," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday. "There are still maybe one or two final details to be worked out."

Turkish sources said the military agreement was resolved far more quickly than the negotiations on an economic aid package as well as the future of northern Iraq. They attributed this to the close military relationship between the two NATO allies as well as the approach of the Turkish General Staff.

The accord details military cooperation between the two NATO allies in Iraq and Turkey. Under the MoU, U.S. soldiers arriving in Turkey will come under Turkish law. The accord also addresses the routes used by U.S. soldiers, restrictions on passage and a framework for briefings by U.S. and Turkish commanders.

"U.S. soldiers will be subject to Turkish law within Turkey's borders and in terms of their relations with citizens of the Turkish Republic, and they will be subject to U.S. law within themselves," the MoU was quoted as saying.

A key point not addressed in the accord is the level of troop deployment in northern Iraq. The MoU does not list how many soldiers either Turkey or the United States can deploy in northern Iraq. The sources said this reflected an understanding that troop deployment would be determined by the conduct of the war against Iraq.

The MoU also sets a timetable for U.S. military deployment in Turkey. Under the draft accord, the U.S. Army will be given two weeks to disembark from ships and aircraft arriving in Turkey until they reach the Iraqi border. Under the MoU, U.S. ships will anchor in the Mediterranean port of Mersin.

Turkish sources said the hardest issues comprise the future of Iraq after the toppling of the regime of President Saddam Hussein. They said Ankara wants guarantees that Iraq will have one military and security infrastructure. In contrast, the United States wants the Kurds to have a separate military force in northern Iraq.

Ankara also wants the Turkmen minority to be granted a formal role in any new political system in Iraq. The United States is opposed to any special role for the ethnic Turks.

The sources said the United States has doggedly bargained over every item in the MoU. At the same time, Washington has prepared for options should Turkey fail to agree to U.S. deployment.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, suggested that Turkey has become the biggest challenge to war planners. He told the New York-based Economic Club on Wednesday that the military seeks any agreement that allows for U.S. soldiers to land in Turkey and be granted safe passage to Iraq.

"That's everything we really want," Myers said.

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