Congressional report sees Turkey's stand as blow to U.S.

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

A U.S. Congress report calls the role of Turkey as the key to success in the current war against Iraq.

Congressional sources said Turkey's refusal to allow passage for U.S. troops to Iraq has prevented the formation of a second front. They said Ankara's policy has significantly damaged U.S. Central Command plans for a quick war against the regime of President Saddam Hussein.

The report by the Congressional Research Service provided the first official glimpse of the extent to which U.S. military plans were based on Turkey's cooperation in the war, Middle East Newsline reported.

The United States had asked Turkey to host 62,000 troops to form a northern front against Baghdad. Ankara refused and instead limited cooperation to the U.S. military use of Turkish air space.

"The attitude of the Turkish government towards U.S. military action against Iraq was a very important consideration for U.S. military planners," the report entitled "Iraq: U.S. Military Operations," said. "The Turkish parliament's rejection of a proposal allowing U.S. ground troops to operate from Turkey delivered a setback to Centcom planners, though Centcom spokesmen have downplayed the impact of the Turkish decision upon their prospects for a successful operation."

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to arrive in Ankara to meet Turkish leaders regarding the war in Iraq. U.S. officials said Powell will urge the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to ease restrictions on the use of Turkish territory and air space for U.S. forces heading toward Iraq.

The congressional report, based on open-source information, said the U.S. 4th Mechanized Infantry Division had been designated to attack from Turkey. In wake of Ankara's refusal, the division was diverted to Kuwait.

"Aside from permitting air operations from Incirlik and other bases, Turkish cooperation would also have provided an easier approach for a northern front for U.S. ground operations," the report said. "Now, it appears, that U.S. airborne and air assault troops coming from Kuwait may be assigned this mission. Though very difficult, mountainous terrain presents challenges in this area, if the United States intends to coopt the indigenous Kurdish opposition forces as part of its attack strategy, a significant troop presence in northern Iraq is crucial."

The report said the U.S. military strategy for the war against Iraq was "greatly dependent upon the continued cooperation of regional nations for substantial staging areas/airbases and has required months to deploy the necessary forces."

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