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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Turkey's military prepares for May invasion of N. Iraq

ANKARA — Turkey has drafted plans for a major military operation in northern Iraq within days or weeks.

On April 20, Turkey's NTV television said the Turkish military has set a "specific timetable" for the offensive against the Kurdish Workers Party in Iraq. NTV said the proposed force would attack PKK camps in the Kandil mountains.
Turkish sources said a force of at least 10,000 troops, backed by main battle tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, was being formed for the invasion. They said the operation could take place in May.

NTV said the military would monitor the PKK insurgency campaign until May. At that point, the military would be ready to send forces into Iraq.

Over the last two weeks, Turkish military commanders have been urging the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to approve an offensive against the PKK. The commanders were said to have assessed that U.S. efforts to block PKK activities in northern Iraq failed.

At this point, the Erdogan government has refused to approve the invasion. Instead, the military was being allowed to operate along the Iraqi border.

A senior Turkish official, however, discussed the prospect of an invasion of northern Iraq with the Bush administration. Turkish coordinator of Kurdish affairs, Adip Bashar, was said to have told the administration that Turkey would wait till the end of April before deciding on the invasion.

The Turkish military has assessed that about 500 PKK operatives were in secret bases in southeastern Turkey. Another 5,000 have crossed into Turkey from Iraq and were attacking Turkish troops and police.

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