With only two months left before the U.S. troops pull out of Iraq, Ankara and Washington are set to launch talks to discuss security conditions and potential regional complications in the post-withdrawal period.
A senior delegation from the U.S. led by Assistant Secretary of the Department of Defense Alexander Vershbow is expected to meet with officials from the foreign and defense ministries as well as military officials Thursday.
“The U.S. has announced it will pull out its troops from Iraq at the end of this year. We have so many legitimate questions and demands from them, like reallocation of some of their military equipment,” a senior Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News on Wednesday. “We will therefore discuss these issues at the greatest extent possible.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama mandated the meeting during a phone conversation in the aftermath of the PKK’s deadly attack against Turkish troops in the Southeast that killed 24 soldiers and injured 18.
Both countries are concerned that the PKK could increase its activities in northern Iraq following the withdrawal of the U.S. troops and their intelligence capabilities, a development that could potentially ruin the relative stability in the area.
“We have to think about this possibility. The PKK has already escalated its attacks and our troops launched an efficient offensive against them. We believe our operations in northern Iraq should be supported,” the diplomat said without further elaborating.
Turkey’s main request from the U.S. is the deployment of a fleet of its Predators to the İncirlik base, a continuation of their surveillance along the Iraqi-Turkish border to trace terrorists and their hideouts and the relocation of some high-technology devices which could be used in Turkey’s fight against the PKK.
One other issue officials will discuss is holding a trilateral meeting with the participation of Turkish, Iraqi and American officials on the elimination of the PKK. Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government, is expected to arrive in Ankara in mid-November.
Technical talks with Vershbow will continue next week during bilateral meetings between foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoğlu and Hillary Clinton in Istanbul on Nov. 2.
Turkish and American officials will also review ongoing work for the deployment of the early warning radar system in Turkey’s Kürecik province of Malatya.