to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from jihadists, the U.S. State Department said Oct. 13. “We clearly view the PKK as a terrorist organization so we would not be supporting them” as part of the Mosul campaign, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said during a daily press briefing. According to Toner, the U.S. distinguishes the PKK from the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and other Kurdish groups in the region. Toner reiterated the U.S.’ stance that they made a “clear delineation” between the PKK, which the U.S. designates as a terror organization and the PYD, which it says fights the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the ground. Although Turkey and the U.S. have the same position on the PKK, they differ about the PYD.
Ankara considers the PYD an extension of the PKK but the U.S. describes the group as a “reliable partner” on the ground in Syria. When Toner was asked whether the U.S. would continue to support the Mosul campaign if the Iraqi government wanted to include the PKK among its troops, he declined to comment saying it was a hypothetical question. Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın on Oct. 13 expressed concerns about the PKK taking advantage of the Mosul operation and trying to extend its territory in northern Iraq.
Regarding the Turkish troops deployed at Iraq’s Bashiqa camp that have recently become a source of tension between Ankara and Baghdad, Toner reiterated that all anti-ISIL efforts in Iraq should be done in coordination with the Iraqi government. Baghdad wants Turkish troops to leave Bashiqa but Ankara says Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi personally asked Turkey for help after ISIL took control of Mosul. Turkey responded to the request by sending its own soldiers to Bashiqa. Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department official told state-run Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity on Oct. 13 that Turkish forces had entered Iraq with Baghdad’s consent. The Turkish military “began to train some of these forces on the ground at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” according to the official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The official stressed that as long as Turkish forces continue to have the consent of Iraq’s government their presence there is “fine.” “They need to be coordinated with the Iraqi government,” the source said.