Turkey extends military mandate in Iraq, Syria for a year

Turkey's parliament has voted to extend the country's troop presence in neighboring Iraq and Syria by a year because of the continued presence of terror-listed organizations on its borders. "However, the existence of PKK and Daesh in Iraq poses a direct threat to regional peace, stability and the security of our country," read a motion approved by parliament on Wednesday, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported, referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and ISIS.

Turkey extends military mandate in Iraq Syria for a year
Turkish upgraded M60A3 MBT with a Mercedes-Benz Unimog 1300L in the background (Picture source: Cemal Acar on Twitter)

The initial mandate allowed the Turkish military to conduct cross-border operations from October 31, 2017 until October 31, 2018. It cited the importance of protecting Iraq's territorial integrity, national unity and stability — the same argument the United States has made for its troop presence in Syria. Both organizations are considered terrorist organizations by Turkey, the European Union, and the United States. The former claims to be fighting for greater minority, cultural, and political rights and is based in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region's (IKR) northeast region of Qandil.

Turkey considers the PKK to be the same organization as the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and the Shingal Protection Units (YBS) in the disputed area claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. The Turkish military has actively carried out strikes on PKK targets in the IKR from Qandil to Shingal. They have a military base in Bamarni near Duhok that has been used to train forces for the fight against ISIS.

In Syria, Turkey has backed opposition forces in Idlib belonging to Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaeda linked organization. Groups in Idlib are at an impasse with Russia, Iran, and Turkey unable to agree on the future of the last remaining major rebel-held area in the country.

To the east, Turkey would like to see the United States stop supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in their fight against ISIS. The backbone of the SDF is the YPG. Together they have formed military and civil councils in liberated areas, which Ankara also believes are YPG spinoffs.