Friday, February 29, 2008
Turkey heeded demands from U.S. officials today and withdrew its forces from northern Iraq, where its troops had mounted an offensive against Kurdish rebels. Turkey said its forces had killed 240 rebels in eight days of fighting. The offensive apparently had U.S. backing when it began, since Turkey was given access to U.S. satellite intelligence, but that support appeared to fade after a few days when the Iraqi government complained about the encroachment on its sovereignty. President Bush called for a quick end to the campaign yesterday and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates left for Ankara on Wednesday. U.S. officials feared a long incursion would eventually involve the largely autonomous oil-rich Kurdish region in Iraq. "It must be recognized that military power alone will not resolve this conflict," Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barhan Salih, a Kurd, told the Reuters international news agency. "The time has come to engage all political and diplomatic initiatives to pursue a resolution to the underlying causes for this conflict," he said. The U.S. State Department called Turkey's withdrawal "a good thing." Turkey blames the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for 40,000 deaths in southern Turkey since 1984, when its campaign for a Kurdish state began. Its fighters are believed to be hiding in the mountainous region along the Turkey-Iraq border. Both Turkey and the United States consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization.