:: Friday, April 25, 2003 ::
Isn't it comforting to have such supportive allies?
Even as the U.S. works to stabilize a postwar Iraq, Turkey is setting out to create a footprint of its own in the Kurdish areas of the country. In the days after U.S. forces captured Saddam's powerbase in Tikrit, a dozen Turkish Special Forces troops were dispatched south from Turkey. Their target: the northern oil city of Kirkuk, now controlled by the U.S. 173rd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade. Using the pretext of accompanying humanitarian aid the elite soldiers passed through the northern city of Arbil on Tuesday. They wore civilian clothes, their vehicles lagging behind a legitimate aid convoy. They'd hoped to pass unnoticed. But at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kirkuk they ran into trouble. "We were waiting for them," says a U.S. paratroop officer.
By Wednesday U.S. paratroopers were holding 23 people associated with the Turkish Special Forces team. Some were drivers and aid workers. But a dozen of them, says Col. Mayville, were identified as soldiers. "We held them for a night, brought them in, fed them and watched their security. After all," he says wryly, "they are our allies." Early Thursday morning American troops escorted the Turkish commandos back over the border.
:: Mark 9:49 AM [+] ::