World Tribune.com

Turkey disaster slows advance on Baghdad, will extend war

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The U.S. Defense Department has cited the absence of Turkish military cooperation as a leading reason for the painstaking advance toward Baghdad.

Pentagon officials said the absence of a northern front stems from the refusal of Turkey to allow the deployment of 62,000 American troops in that country. They said Iraqi Republican Guard divisions were able to withdraw from the north and focus on a defense of Baghdad and Tikrit in central Iraq.

Goods already unloaded in Turkey must now be reloaded and shipped to the Persian Gulf.



The U.S. military has been ordered to collect a huge amount of material and vehicles unloaded over the last few days at Turkish ports as part of now-defunct plans to move American troops through that country to the Iraqi border. The material is now headed for U.S. ships that will sail for the Persian Gulf.

Officials said the diversion of the material as well as more than 20,000 U.S. troops meant to enter Turkey has hurt the war effort. They said this could extend the war against the regime of President Saddam Hussein for up to another two weeks.

"We're doing it [the movement of troops and military material] from the south instead of from the north," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. "And it's not anywhere near as convenient or helpful."

Officials said the United States has changed its approach toward Turkey in wake of its refusal to allow the deployment of American troops for the formation of a second front. They said Turkey has forfeited a U.S. pledge for up to $15 billion in grants and loans in compensation for the war against Iraq. They also warned Turkey against deploying troops in northern Iraq.

Ankara has granted the United States use of Turkish air space for attacks on targets in northern Iraq. But U.S. officials said the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has tried to place a series of restrictions on such flights and banned the use of Turkish air bases for any U.S. military aircraft deployed for the war against Iraq.

U.S. officials said Central Command will form a northern front without Turkish cooperation. They said about 5,000 U.S. troops have landed in three airports in northern Iraq, but many of them have been reserved to help fight Kurdish battles against Al Qaida-aligned forces.

The State Department and other elements of the administration are said to have rejected a proposal to use other U.S. allies in the Middle East to help form a second front. Officials said the proposal that had been considered by the Pentagon was to divert the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division meant to be hosted by Turkey through Israel and Jordan for deployment in northern Iraq.

The officials did not rule out a reassessment in U.S. relations with Turkey after the war with Iraq. They said the administration will examine a range of options. "I think one of the mistakes they made, frankly, was turning down our proposal for a cooperative action in the north which would have been useful," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said.

"It looks as though maybe we don't need it. We're getting lots of people into the north by the southern routes and we'll try to make sure that the kinds of problems that would in any way prompt a Turkish intervention are just not going to happen."

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