Turkish ground forces, mostly special forces units, are quietly developing their ground operation in northern Iraq. The formal pretext of the effort is to combat the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the area.
Since the last month, Turkish forces have crossed the border with Iraq and established control of a number of villages in the northern part of the country. Their activity have even been reproted in the areas of Sidakah and Mawana.
The ground operation was accompanied with airstrikes by the Turkish Air Force. On April 5, 14 PKK members were neutralized and 13 PKK positions were destroyed by Turkish airstrikes in in the Qandil region, according to the Turkish military. The country’s armed forces also added that 59 PKK members had been neutralized in three airstrikes in the areas of Hakurk and Zap on April 1 and April 2.
On April 4, Iraqi President Fuad Masum called on Turkey to withdraw its forces from Iraq as the battle on ISIS in the country is largely over [despite the fact that the security operation remains complicated].
“We do not need the presence of any military forces on the ground in Iraq, but we need cooperation with the countries,” Masum said in an interview with al-Hayat newspaper. “Foreign troops are not allowed to launch military operations inside Iraq or occupy parts of the country.”
The Turkish military presence in northern Iraq since late 2015 has been one of the key reasons of tensions between Baghdad and Ankara. Turkey has repeatedly assured that it “respects” the Iraqi sovereignty, but is not hurrying up to limit its military presence in the north of the country.