NATO mum on Turkish action against Kurds
October 11, 2007
ARLINGTON, Va. — NATO’s top military commander declined Wednesday to say whether NATO would support Turkish military action in northern Iraq.
“That’s a political decision; I will leave that to the North Atlantic Council,” Gen. Bantz Craddock said.
Turkey, a member of NATO, has recently shelled northern Iraq as part of its stepped-up efforts to attack Kurdish separatists, raising fears that Turkey could cross into northern Iraq to attack the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
Craddock acknowledged Wednesday that the PKK is using northern Iraq as a safe haven to launch attacks in Turkey. He also called Turkey a valued ally in NATO and noted that a good deal of supplies to Iraq flow through Turkey.
“So we’ve got some responsibilities: one, to make sure that that line of communication is still viable, and we do that, again, with our security cooperation folks that are in Turkey; and then, secondly, I think from a NATO perspective, we want to sustain the strong partnership on our southeastern border there with Turkey, which we have valued for years,” Craddock said.
Asked if he could influence Turkey’s dealings with Iraq, Craddock said: “I won’t say in terms of Iraq. 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.”
Craddock, who is also head of U.S. European Command, said he had no further information on the report he submitted to the Pentagon on June 26 recommending curtailment of the proposed U.S. drawdown of U.S. troops in Europe.
“It has been discussed, we’ve talked about it, but it has yet to be acted on, so it is still a work in progress,” Craddock said.
Craddock also could not say whether two Germany-based Army units will relocate to the United States. The units are the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based in Schweinfurt, and the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, based in Baumholder.
“That would be a Army component — Army Service Component Command, U.S. Army Europe — decision,” he said. “They would have to come to me. They have not come to me with that option at this point, so I don’t know of any decision.”
Craddock has voiced concern to lawmakers that he does not have enough forces to conduct missions in Europe and Africa, in part due to deployments of Europe-based units to Iraq and Afghanistan.