Think tank: Iraq blocks on-leave Turkish soldiers return to northern base

Turkish soldiers drive an armored tank inside a Turkish military base

Baghdad ( Iraqi authorities have deprived Turkish soldiers, deployed in northern Iraq to combat Kurdish militias, from visas to return to their bases as means to cut down the number of troops which Baghdad had repeatedly demanded to pull out.

Watheq al-Hashemi, director of al-Nahrain Center for Strategic Studies, an Iraqi government-affiliated think tank, told Almaalomah website that the Iraqi government has unilaterally decided not to grant Turkish soldiers on leave at their homeland visas to return to the Turkish military base in Bashiqa region, north of Iraq.

According to Hashemi, the measure, adopted over the past months, has helped reduce the number of Turkish troops significantly. “The government’s stance of not allowing Turkish soldiers to return will end the Turkish military presence in Bashiqa cunningly and without any diplomatic or military friction {with Ankara}”.

According to Hashemi, the Bashiqa camp is “totally cordoned by Iraqi troops”, adding that “Turkey cannot carry out any plans without the knowledge of the joint Iraqi troops”.

It is believed that Ankara maintains nearly 2000 soldiers in Bashiqa, north of Iraq’s Nineveh province, as a surety against the activities of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the movement that engaged in war with Turkey for decades, and is branded by Ankara as a terrorist group. The troops deployed following Islamic State militants attacks on Sinjar region in 2014. Baghdad had called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops, deeming their presence an infringement over its sovereignty, but Ankara insists that presence protects its security.

Turkish officials have reiterated in several occasions that their military offensives against PKK locations in northern Iraq will continue until the group’s threat is eliminated.

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