ANKARA Ñ The United States has ordered an increase in security
measures to protect its troops in military bases in Turkey.
Turkish government sources said the U.S. military command has relayed
warnings that soldiers should limit their movement outside of bases. They
said the command has raised the prospect that U.S. soldiers could come under
attack in Turkey amid military tension between Ankara and Washington.
On July 4, a U.S. military force raided a Turkish office in northern
Iraq and captured 24 Turkish nationals, 11 of them members of the Turkish
Special Forces Command. After 48 hours characterized by protests throughout
Turkey, the United States released the Turks, Middle East Newsline reported.
But the sources said the U.S. military still fears the prospect of a
backlash against the more than 1,000 soldiers in Turkey. Most of the U.S.
soldiers are based in the Incerlik air base in southern Turkey.
The Ankara-based Hurriyet daily reported on July 12 that the U.S.
military has ordered all of the 400 soldiers at Incerlik to remain in the
base from 9 p.m. until the following morning. The newspaper said
the U.S. military has also raised the security alert at Incerlik.
The sources said Turkey has also relayed a proposal to the United States
to send a military force to southern Iraq. They said the proposal calls for
a brigade-size mission that will help in the stabilization of Basra and
On Friday, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid arrives in
Ankara as part of an effort to improve cooperation and coordination between
the militaries of the two countries. Abizaid will discuss the tensions in
northern Iraq in wake of the capture of 24 Turkish military personnel on
July 4 in Suleimaniya.
Earlier this week, the two countries issued a statement meant to resolve
the tensions. But Turkish officials have expressed dissatisfaction with the
U.S. refusal to apologize for the Suleimaniya episode.
Turkey has linked the continuation of its military presence
in Iraq to the end of the Kurdish insurgency threat.
Officials said the Turkish military and government Prime Minister Recep
Erdogan have agreed to reject any U.S. appeal for a withdrawal of an
estimated 4,000 Turkish troops from northern Iraq. They said Ankara has also
rejected any commitment for a gradual withdrawal of troops from the region.
"Allegations saying that Turkey and the United States have reached
consensus on gradual withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from northern Iraq are
totally baseless," Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said. "If terrorist
groups in Iraq are not allowed to stage operations, then it is unnecessary
for Turkish soldiers to have a presence in the region."
Officials said the PKK, also known by their new name Kadek, has 5,000
combatants in northern Iraq. They said the PKK has been bolstered by new
recruits, finances and weapons over the last three months.
Gul leaves for Washington this week and will meet senior Bush
administration officials. They include Vice President Richard Cheney and
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Turkey has offered to send a force to the southern region around Basra
to help in the stabilization
of Iraq. Officials said this was the subject of discussion between Turkish
military and political leaders with U.S. Central Command chief General John
Abizaid, who arrived on Friday in Ankara. Abizaid was joined by Gen. James
Jones, supreme allied commander of U.S. forces in NATO.
"During the meeting between Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok and U.S.
Central Command Chief Gen. John Abizaid, measures that could be taken on the
issues of cooperation and coordination in order to prevent events like
detention of Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq, were addressed," a General
Staff statement said on Saturday.