US trying to negotiate a role for Turkey in Mosul offensive

(October 22) Ashton Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defence said that he was confident that Turkey would be able to play a role in the offensive designed to liberate the city of Mosul from the Islamic State.

After a visit to Turkey, Carter said:
"I think there is agreement there in principle. Iraq understands that Turkey as a member of the counter-ISIL (IS) coalition will play a role in counter-ISIL operations in Iraq and secondly that Turkey since it neighbours the region of Mosul has an interest (in) the ultimate outcome in Mosul. I am confident that we can work things out and there are things that would be productive for Turkey to do and we just need to work through these practicalities."
A senior US official said that Turkey could provide medical or humanitarian support or train Iraqi forces. Relationships between Turkey and the Iraqi federal government have been strained. Baghdad has called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Iraq. The troops are stationed at Bashiga near Mosul at the invitation of the Kurdish regional government. Turkey is concerned that the Mosul operation will be spearhead by Shiite militias and also perhaps by some of the Kurdish groups it opposes. Mosul has many Sunni inhabitants.
Turkey had earlier expressed frustration that as a NATO member it has not been asked to be involved in the offensive on Mosul. Mosul was once part of the Ottoman Empire and is still seen by president Erdogan as within the Turkish sphere of influence. However, Iraq is concerned with any attempts by Turkey to expand its influence into Iraq. The Mosul area may also be a source of friction with the Kurdish regional government as the area is rich in oil resources.
Carter made it clear that the exact role of Turkey in the campaign had not yet been worked out. Carter voiced conditional support for Turkey playing some role in the offensive. The Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik, who met with Carter, also claimed that there was agreement in principle on Turkish involvement in "determining the future of Mosul". He also said that the US, Turkey, and Iraq should work together on the issue in order to reduce tensions between Ankara and Baghdad.
Carter met also with Binali Yildirim, the Turkish Prime Minister. Earlier this week Yildirim insisted that Turkish jets woulld be deployed at some point during the offensive against Mosul. Mosul is around five times the size of any other city that the IS has been able to hold. The US is also raising the issue of Turkish participation in regular talks with the Iraqi leaderhip. Turkey is already angry at the US for its support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG which has become a key ally for the US fight against IS in Syria whereas Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group.
The US hopes that Turkey will agree to some role in the Mosul offensive that will not anger Baghdad such as medical and humanitarian support, as mentioned earlier. Iraqi officials have made it clear they do not want Turkey involved in the ground invasion.


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