MESOP : ERDOGAN & US COMING TOGETHER AGAIN / US Officials Visit Turkey to Discuss Mosul Operation

By Ali Ünal –  2016-09-06 – SABAH  – As Turkey continues Operation Euphrates Shield against DAESH and the PKK’s Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (YPG) terrorist organizations in northern Syria, a high level U.S. delegation visited Ankara last week to discuss details of the Mosul operation. According to information obtained by diplomatic sources, the U.S. delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Joseph Pennington and military officials met with Turkish officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in Ankara last week, addressing details of the operation in the meeting as well as reported discussions of Turkey’s aim to liberate Mosul of DAESH.

Turkey is an active member in the U.S-led anti-DAESH coalition and since March 2015 Turkish military experts have trained up to 3,000 KRG peshmerga units and Iraqi army members to prepare them for the Mosul operation. Sources indicated that soldiers that have received training from the TSK in the Bashika camp will be included in the Mosul operation. However, Turkey’s contribution to the operation will not be limited to training support.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made it clear on June 7 that Turkey’s support in the operation will be more comprehensive.”Turkey will strongly support a possible operation to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from DAESH militants,” he said. For this, the dimensions of Turkey’s contribution in the operations were worked through by Turkish and U.S. officials. Accordingly, Turkey has offered intelligence cooperation including aerial reconnaissance and logistic support via the İncirlik air base. The other Turkish air bases in Malatya, Batman and Diyarbakır will also be ready to provide humanitarian assistance and emergency landing services. Turkish and American officials also discussed support for the TSK and Turkey reportedly agreed to allow the participation of Turkish warplanes if necessary. However, sources indicated that Turkish ground forces will not be included in the operation due to recent tension between Turkey and the Iraqi central government.

As the U.N. recently warned that the military operation to retake the city could displace 3.4 million people and cause a humanitarian crisis, Turkey is also considering the human dimension of the operation very carefully. Therefore, reinforcements on the Turkish border to guard against possible DAESH threats will be strengthened and new measures will be taken to prevent a mass refugee influx by the Turkish side before the operation.

Preventing sectarian and ethnic conflicts the aftermath of the operation is just as important as the operation itself for Turkey. Therefore, during the meetings Turkish officials expressed their concerns and warned U.S. officials about the involvement of any Shiite militias in the Mosul operation. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city, and it fell to DAESH in 2014 and is currently the largest city under DAESH control. In recent weeks the Iraqi army of the central government in Baghdad and peshmerga troops from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have started separate operations to prepare for the liberation of Mosul from DAESH. According to diplomatic sources, a major offensive against DAESH in Mosul is expected to start by late September and sources estimate that around 50,000 Iraqi soldiers, backed by 20,000 Peshmerga fighters, 10,000 Turkmens and members of Sunni tribes will take part in the offensive.