Iraq sets up new military bases in areas under PKK threat - M5 Dergi
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Iraq sets up new military bases in areas under PKK threat

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The Iraqi military set up 2 military bases in Zaho in northern Iraq, media reports say, days after the Turkish president visited Baghdad in pursuit of cooperation against the terrorist group PKK, which has been active in the area

Iraqi media outlets reported on Sunday that two military bases were set up in the village of Kshani in the country’s Zakho region, a region affected by the presence of the PKK terrorist group. Media reports say it is the first deployment of troops to the region in the past three decades.

Last week, Ankara announced that Türkiye was prepared to provide Iraq with technical assistance for securing its borders to prevent the mobility of the PKK terrorist group around the region.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Baghdad and Irbil recently as Ankara ramped up cross-border operations against PKK members based in mountainous northern Iraq, ruled by the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). During the visit, the two countries agreed to a strategic framework agreement overseeing security, trade, energy and a defense cooperation deal.

“We told our counterparts that Türkiye is ready to assist Iraq on border security systems,” a senior Turkish official told reporters last week. The official said that a delegation from Iraq visited Türkiye to examine the border security systems that Türkiye offered to provide, adding that the discussions for security cooperation and joint military training were still underway.

Ankara plans a new swoop in on the PKK militants this summer and says Iraqi cooperation is paramount to eradicating the group “at its roots.”

During a joint news conference with Erdoğan during the latter’s visit to Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed S. Al Sudani said the two countries would cooperate to bolster border security without mentioning the PKK.

The PKK, which launched a campaign of terrorism in Türkiye in the 1980s, is designated a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies.

Since Turkish operations have driven its domestic presence to near extinction, the PKK has moved a large chunk of its operations to northern Iraq, including a stronghold in the Qandil Mountains, located roughly 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the Turkish border in Irbil.

Türkiye has, over the past 25 years, operated several dozen military bases in northern Iraq in its war against the PKK, as well as the war against Daesh, which controlled much of the area, in 2014 and 2015, when Ankara was an ally in the U.S.-led anti-Daesh campaign.

Ankara launched Operation Claw-Lock in April 2022, the latest in the string of cross-border “Claw” offensives kicked off in 2019, to demolish terrorist lairs across Metina, Avashin-Basyan, Zap and Gara districts and prevent the formation of a terror corridor along Turkish borders. The PKK carried out attacks, killing more than a dozen Turkish soldiers in the past two months in Metina. The high toll led to an increase in Turkish operations, which sometimes take place deep into Iraqi territory.

The operations have regularly strained bilateral ties, but officials have repeatedly assured Türkiye’s respect of Iraq’s sovereignty and commitment to only targeting terrorists.

On Monday, security sources said the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) eliminated 15 terrorists, including senior figures of the PKK in Iraq in the last week of April. Sources said operations were held in the Hakurk region and carried out to thwart planned attacks by terrorists against Turkish targets.

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