Referring to an anticipated visit by a Turkish delegation to Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Wednesday that the “imminent” withdrawal of Turkish troops stationed in Iraq.
“A Turkish delegation will soon visit Iraq to discuss arrangements for the removal of Turkish forces in Iraq,” Abadi said.
Roughly 2,000 Turkish troops are currently in northern Iraq. In 2015, Turkey established a base in the town of Bashiqa near Mosul, where they trained Sunni Muslim and Kurdish Peshmerga units in preparations for the battle to liberate Mosul.
At the beginning of the offensive in Oct. 2016, Turkey declared it would keep its troops in Iraq “until the Islamic State (IS) was expelled” from its stronghold of Mosul despite calls from other nations to withdraw their forces.
“Turkey’s presence in the Bashiqa camp will remain until Mosul is rid of Daesh,” then-Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told the state-run Anadolu Agency, using an acronym for IS.
“Whoever the Mosul population is, Arabs or Turkmen, they have lived together for centuries and will continue to do so. If you change the ethnic structure here, the people there will not allow it. This is our perspective as Turkey. Turkey’s force in the region cannot be questioned,” he said, hinting at concerns related to the presence of Kurdish and Shia forces in the area.
In Jan. 2017, Abadi met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to discuss the withdrawal of the Turkish units.
“We will not accept anything other than the complete withdrawal of the Turkish troops in the Bashiqa base,” he said, stating that “the sovereignty of Iraq is non-negotiable.”
At the time, Abadi announced the Turkish PM promised Turkey would withdraw troops from Bashiqa, adding that “Iraqi-Turkish relations will not improve until the complete withdrawal of the troops.”
Tensions between Iraq and Turkey have since increased after Ankara refused to withdraw its forces despite repeated demands.
“Our Constitution does not allow any group to have activities against neighboring countries inside Iraq or to have bases in the country,” Abadi said.
Abadi declared victory in Mosul on July 10 and is insisting there is no need for Turkey to maintain a military presence in Iraq.
“I have informed the Turkish Prime Minister of the absence of a pretext to justify keeping his forces in Iraq following the fall of the jihadist group in Mosul.”
Iraqi President Fuad Masoum announced earlier this month that he would raise the issue with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the liberation of Mosul.