Turkish Armed Forces have deployed around 150 soldiers and 20 tanks to the town of Bashiqa, located in Iraq’s northern province of Mosul, to replace troops that have been in the region for two and a half years where they have been training Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
According to Turkish security sources, the mission was launched with the knowledge of the US-led coalition and is part of a routine military exercise against the DAESH terrorist group.
"Turkish soldiers have reached the Mosul Bashiqa region. They are there as part of routine training exercises. One battalion has crossed into the region," a Turkish security source told Reuters.
"Our soldiers are already in Iraq. A battalion of soldiers has gone there. Training was already being given in that region for the last two to three years. This is a part of that training," another Turkish official said.
The Turkish convoy reportedly arrived on Thursday night at a camp used by the pro-Iraqi government Hashid Watani militia, which is mainly comprised of Sunni Arab volunteers from Mosul and was set up by former governor Atheel al Nujaifi.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s Media Office confirmed the arrival on the Turkish convoy in a statement published on its website, but said the deployment had not been carried out with the Iraqi government’s permission.
“It has been confirmed to us that Turkish troops numbering around one regiment armoured with tanks and artillery entered the Iraqi territory, and specifically the province of Nineveh claim that they are training Iraqi groups without the request or authorization from the Iraqi federal authorities and this is considered a serious breach of Iraqi sovereignty and does not conform with the good neighbourly relations between Iraq and Turkey,” the statement read.
“The Iraqi authorities call on Turkey to respect good neighbourly relations and to withdraw immediately from the Iraqi territory.”
The Turkish deployment comes just days after the US announced its own plans to deploy a "specialised expeditionary targeting force" to help the Iraqi government and Peshmerga fight against DAESH.
However, Prime Minister 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."
Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias, which are part of a coordinated offensive led by the Iraqi government to reclaim territory currently under DAESH, vowed to fight against US troops if they are deployed in the country.
DAESH seized Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city after the capital Baghdad, in the summer of 2014 before breaking through the Sykes-Picot border to create a corridor linking them to their branch in Syria.
The Al Qaeda offshoot expanded into Ramadi - the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province - in May, as they continue to sweep across the country’s mainly Sunni Muslim regions.
Having been on the verge of extinction in 2010 with the majority of its leaders killed or captured, DAESH was revived with support from former commanders of Iraq’s late autocrat leader Saddam Hussein, who was executed by the new US-backed Iraqi government in 2006.
DAESH’s sudden rise was largely blamed on the polarising policies of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, under whose reign sectarianism between Sunnis and Shiites became more apparent.
US-led coalition air strikes last year helped Iraqi government troops supported by the Shiite militias retake the city of Tikrit from DAESH, in what was seen as a rare instance of overlapping American and Iranian interests.
At present, it is unclear how the Shiite militias will greet the Turkish deployment.