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Iraqi leader resists US push for Turkish role in Mosul fight

Iraqi, Kurdish and other local forces will handle the battle for Mosul — Abadi

By AP - Oct 22,2016 - Last updated at Oct 22,2016

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi is seen on a screen as he speaks via a videoconference during a ministerial summit to hold discussion on the future of Mosul city in Paris, France, on Thursday (AP photo)

BAGHDAD — US Defence Secretary Ash Carter’s push for Iraq to let Turkey play a role in the battle to retake Mosul from the Daesh terror group encountered stiff resistance Saturday from Iraq’s prime minister, who said his country’s forces will oust the militants from the northern city.

“I know that the Turks want to participate, we tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul and the rest of the territories,” Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said through a translator after meeting with the Pentagon chief.

Iraqi, Kurdish and other local forces will handle the battle for Mosul, Abadi said.

“We don’t have any problems,” he said, adding that if help is needed, “we will ask for it from Turkey or from other regional countries.”

 Carter told reporters the issue of a Turkish role in the Mosul fight is a difficult subject, and that Abadi said in the meeting he has had talks with the Turks and expected to have more.

Iraqi sovereignty is a key principle, Carter said, and the American role is to work with partners in the coalition and try to resolve such matters, and ensure that everyone is focused on fighting Daesh.

“I am confident that we can plan a constructive role there,” he said, adding that Turkey is a member of the coalition.

One day earlier, Carter met with Turkish leaders in Ankara and told reporters of “an agreement in principle” for Turkey to play a role in the Mosul battle. Carter stressed at the time that any final decision would be up to the Iraqis, while expressing optimism the Turks and Iraqis could settle their differences.

Carter arrived in Iraq on Saturday to meet with his commanders and assess the progress in the opening days of the Mosul operation.

His visit came two days after a US service member was killed outside Mosul, underscoring the risk that American troops are taking as they advise Iraqi forces in the fight.

Carter, who already has been to Iraq twice this year, has overseen the steady increase in the number of US forces deployed to the fight and the growth of America’s effort to train and advise Iraqi troops. In his two earlier visits, Carter announced White House decisions to increase the US troop level there. There were no expectations he would do that again.

During his stop in Baghdad, Carter met with Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq, and other leaders.

Carter’s meetings in Turkey were a sign of moves to ease tensions between Turkey and Iraq over Turkish military operations in northern Iraq. That divide has grown as the operation to retake Mosul began to take shape.

Some 500 Turkish troops at a base north of Mosul have been training Sunni and Kurdish fighters since last December. The Iraqi government says the troops are there without permission and has called on them to withdraw. Turkey has refused, and insists it will play a role in liberating the city.

 

The US service member killed this week was the fourth US combat death in Iraq since the US began military operations against Daesh in August 2014. It was the first since the Mosul operation began, and the service member was working with Iraqi special forces northeast of Mosul and serving as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist.

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