The U.S. and Turkey are discussing how to continue cooperation against terrorist targets in northern Iraq after U.S. forces leave Iraq in December, including the possibility of basing Predator drones in Turkey, a U.S. official said Sunday.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The U.S. currently is sharing Predator surveillance data with Turkey as part of a joint effort to combat the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which the U.S. considers a terrorist group and whose fighters have launched cross-border attacks into Turkey from northern Iraq. The Predators, capable of transmitting full-motion video, are flow from bases in Iraq.
The scheduled U.S. withdrawal from Iraq by Dec. 31 is presenting a number of diplomatic and potential military complications for the Obama administration. In addition to the issue of continued cooperation with Turkey against the PKK in northern Iraq, the U.S. also is considering whether to base backup or rotational training forces in Kuwait in order to provide the additional military support that American commanders say the Iraqis will need well beyond 2011.
Turkey is a NATO ally, but the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 strained Washington's relations with Ankara.
The Washington Post was first to report Sunday that the Obama administration is considering a request from Turkey to base Predators on its territory.
The Post also cited classified diplomatic reports, obtained by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, which reveal that Turkey has repeatedly pressed Washington to escalate their involvement in the fight against the PKK and to eliminate the group before U.S. forces leave Iraq.
The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey since 1984 and keeps bases in northern Iraq. In recent weeks, the Turkish military has carried out airstrikes against suspected Kurdish hideouts in northern Iraq following a series of rebel attacks that killed dozens of Turkish soldiers.