Iraqi and Kurdish forces have launched a new offensive on a town near Mosul as part of a massive operation aimed at retaking the country’s second largest city from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS).
As the noose gets tightened around the terrorists’ largest occupied Iraqi city, the presence of Turkish troops assisting in the battle has angered many in Iraq.
The Iraqis say they never gave Turkish troops permission to enter the country and has called on them to withdraw. Turkey has refused the demand, insisting that it play a role in retaking Mosul from IS.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter has visited both countries in recent days, and arrived in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil on Sunday, where he was expected to discuss the issue with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.
After meeting with Turkey’s leaders, Carter had announced an “agreement in principle” for Turkey to have a role in the operation.[caption id="attachment_24127" align="aligncenter" width="800"] A displaced young Iraqi boy holds a pigeon at refugee camp on October 22, 2016 in the town of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, as an operation to recapture the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group takes place. AFP[/caption]
But Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appeared to bat that idea down when he met with Carter on Saturday, insisting that Mosul was an “Iraqi battle.”
“I know that the Turks want to participate, we tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul and the rest of the territories,” he said.
Turkish forces have made several previous ground forays into Iraq in recent years, raising tensions between the neighbours. Until the Mosul operation, Turkey primarily had been sending ground troops into the country to go after Kurdish rebels Ankara calls terrorists.
The forces taking part in the Mosul offensive include Iraqi troops, the peshmerga, Sunni tribal fighters and state-sanctioned Shiite militias. Many fear the operation could heighten tensions between Iraq’s different communities, which are allied against ISIS but divided over a host of other issues, including the fate of territories near mostly Sunni Mosul that are claimed by the largely autonomous Kurdish region and the central government.
The Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, said they launched a dawn offensive Sunday on two fronts to the northeast of Mosul, near the town of Bashiqa.
"Get out Erdogan! Get out occupier!" Thousands of Iraqis slam Turkey's occupation of #Mosul right in front of the Turkish embassy in Baghdad pic.twitter.com/9eSgMdbGUB — Sahar Abdallah (@sahouraxo) October 18, 2016
Source: Reuters, CBC