Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgic announced that Turkey has sent troops to northern Iraq exclusively for training the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Peshmerga forces and Iraqi National Army against the DAESH terrorist threat, adding that they will continue to stay in the region.
Turkish Armed Forces, on Friday deployed around 150 soldiers and 25 tanks to the town of Bashiqa, located in Iraq’s northern province of Mosul, to replace the troops that have reportedly been training Peshmerga forces in the region since March 2015.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi criticised the deployment, claiming that it had been carried out without Baghdad's approval and asked Turkish government to withdraw its troops from the region in 48 hours.
Bilgic stated that the Iraqi government had prior knowledge of Turkey’s activities at the Bashiqa camp and stated that the camp needs further security measures to ensure the safety of the military personnel training there.
Bilgic also said the recent deployment has been exaggerated in Turkish media reports, but he reiterated that DAESH, which controls swathes of territory in Iraq, is recognised as a national threat by Turkey.
“Our decision is to contribute Iraq’s fight against DAESH as much as possible from now on. In this framework, we respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraqi government,” Bilgic underlined.
However, Abadi denied that his country needs the help of foreign troops to fight DAESH, saying "any military operation or the deployment of any foreign forces - special or not - in any place in Iraq cannot happen without its approval and coordination and full respect of Iraqi sovereignty."
Bilgic did not signal that Turkey will pull back its recent troop deployment, but he emphasised that the further transfer of troops into the Iraqi territory will be stopped within the scope of Iraqi “sensitivities.”
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu wrote a letter to Abadi on Monday to clarify the activities and the duties of the Turkish Armed Forces deployed in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, describing the recent movement as a “routine troop activity.”
“There will be no deployment of forces to Bashika until the sensitivities of Iraq are addressed," the letter said, according to sources from the Turkish Prime Ministry.
KRG President Massoud Barzani, an ally of Turkey, has also commented on the issue saying that “We have information that Turkey and Iraq have previously agreed on the deployment of the Turkish soldiers around Mosul,” in a statement on Tuesday.
“They have made such an alliance in order to train and support volunteer soldiers who will participate in the operation to liberate Mosul. The mentioned deployment has been realised according to this agreement between the sides,” he continued.
“This issue has been exaggerated much to me,” he added.
KRG spokesman Safeen Dizayee has issued a statement on Dec 5 saying that, “Within the framework of the international coalition against ISIS [DAESH], Turkey opened two military training bases for Peshmerga forces in the end of 2014 in Soran and Qalacholan districts, in the Kurdistan Region.”
“It has also, during the same period, opened a training base for other Iraqi forces in Mosul governorate and provided military assistance.”
“In the past days, military equipment and logistics have been transferred to this base in order to expand the capacity of the training base in Mosul governorate,” Dizayee recounted.
DAESH seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city after the capital Baghdad, in June 2014, before breaking through the Sykes-Picot border to create a corridor linking them to their branch in Syria.
DAESH also assaulted Turkey’s Mosul Consulate and kidnapped head consulate and several staff members - a total of 49 citizens on June 11, 2014. Turkish officials carried out extensive initiatives which resulted in abductees safely returning to Turkey after 101 days of captivity.