Choices Few for US in Turkey-PKK Clash
7 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — NATO's supreme commander, the senior U.S. soldier in Europe, indicated Wednesday that he could do little to stop a Turkish incursion seeking Turkish Kurds taking shelter in Iraq.
Gen. John Craddock, visiting from his Brussels headquarters, said the valuable NATO ally faces a problem along its southeastern border.
The Kurdistan Workers Party, known by its initials PKK, has fought for autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984. Tens of thousands have died in the conflict.
"I don't think it's any secret that there's a problem there between insurgents — the PKK — using northern Iraq as a safe haven and the Turks then get attacked across the border. And that's the issue," Craddock told reporters. "The contentious issue is where are these people at any one time."
As indication of the impasse, retired Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, appointed by President Bush in 2006 as a special envoy on the matter, resigned in the past week. His Turkish counterpart, retired Gen. Edip Baser, resigned in May after a Turkish newspaper quoted him as saying the efforts were going nowhere.
Turkey has conducted two dozen large-scale incursions into Iraq since the late 1980s. The last such operation, in 1997, involved tens of thousands of troops and government-paid village guards.
Craddock's responsibility as chief of the European Command stops at the Iraq border. Iraq is in the territory of the Central Command, headquartered in Florida.
Craddock was asked whether he can "influence Turkey's actions in terms of Iraq?"
"I won't say in terms of Iraq," he said. "I will say that I talk with my counterparts, military leaders in Turkey, frequently, and we discuss issues about their border. And I'll leave it at that."
Asked whether NATO would support the Turks in going after PKK fighters, Craddock said, "That's a political decision."
The Associated Press: Choices Few for US in Turkey-PKK Clash