Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that the Turkish military would keep training forces to better combat the DAESH terrorist group.
“Our additional troops have primarily been in the respective region in order to increase our sensitivities for combating against DAESH and protecting our soldiers better,” Kurtulmus told journalists during a cabinet meeting on Monday.
“Some of our military elements have currently been withdrawn to rear lines in the region. However, I would like to express that [our forces] have sensitively been on the alert without endangering our presence there and other places,” Kurtulmus, who is also the spokesperson of the Turkish government, said.
Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz confirmed on Tuesday that “Training personnel [of Turkey] will remain at Bashiqa military camp.”
The Turkish foreign ministry released a statement on Dec. 19 reiterating “its support for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and acknowledging “the miscommunication with the government of Iraq over the recent deployments of Turkish protection forces to support training activities,” in the region.
An Iraqi foreign ministry statement on Dec. 20 read, "We deem media reports regarding Turkish troops' withdrawal as a step in the right direction within the context of reinforcement of our relations, respect to Iraq's security and sovereignty and the fight against DAESH terror."
The Baghdad government had called the presence of the Turkish troops a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and insisted the forces be withdrawn.
Turkish Armed Forces on Dec. 4 deployed around 150 soldiers and 25 tanks to the town of Bashiqa, located in Iraq’s northern province of Mosul, to supposedly replace the troops that have reportedly been training Peshmerga forces in the region since March 2015.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously said, “Turkey’s position [concerning northern Iraq] cannot be resembled with any other country in the region because we have constantly been under threat by DAESH and other terrorist groups.”
“Our mission should be there due to our campaign against DAESH and other terrorist organisations [in the region] which have still been continuing to be active threats against us,” Erdogan added in mid-December.
US President Barack Obama urged Erdogan in a telephone call last week to withdraw its troops from Iraq to "de-escalate tensions" in the north of the country.