Friday, February 29, 2008

Turkish Troops Pull Out of Iraq

CUKURCA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's military said Friday it has ended a ground offensive against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, but said that foreign influence did not play a role in its decision.

At least 200 trucks carrying Turkish troops were seen leaving the Iraqi border area and heading into Turkey's interior.

The move came a day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Turkish leaders during a visit in Ankara that they should end the offensive as soon as possible. In Washington, President Bush made a similar point Thursday, saying Turkey needed to move quickly and get out.

"Both the start and end dates of the operation were decided by us solely based on military reasoning and necessities," the military said in a statement. "Any influence, either foreign on domestic, on this decision by the Turkish Armed Forces is out of question."

Turkey launched the incursion into northern Iraq more than a week ago against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group fighting for the autonomy of predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey. The rebels have carried out attacks in Turkey from bases in Kurdish Iraq.

It was the first major, confirmed incursion in Iraq by Turkey in almost a decade.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Friday that "it was a targeted and relatively short operation."

"But I would certainly expect that in the future, that unless the PKK gives up terrorism, that we're going to have to continue to work with the Turks and the Iraqis to go after them," Johndroe said.

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