Turkish military posts in Iraq triple in three years
The number of Turkish military posts in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) has tripled within the last three years, according to officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Turkey's military presence in the area, which dates back to 1990s, has been ramped up in the last 10 years, particularly since 2019, through successive military campaigns allegedly carried against Kurdish fighters affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated a "terrorist group" by Ankara.
Former secretary general for Kurdistan's Peshmerga forces, Jabar Manda, told Reuters that Turkey had 29 outposts in Iraq until 2019 but the number has mushroomed since then.
"Year after year the outposts have been increasing after the escalation of battles between Turkish forces and the PKK," he said, estimating the current number at 87, mostly in a strip of border territory about 150 km long and 30 km deep.
"In those outposts there are tanks and armored vehicles," added Manda, who is now a security analyst in the city of Sulaymaniyah. "Helicopters supply the outposts daily."
A Kurdish official, who declined to be named, also said Turkey now has about 80 outposts in the region. Another Kurdish official said at least 50 were built in the last two years and that Turkey's presence is becoming more permanent.
Turkish military presence is not limited to areas along the border line. Turkey has a military base at Bashiqa, some 80 km inside Iraq.
While the Turkish defense ministry did not respond to Reuter's questions about the figures cited by Kurdish officials, it stated that its operations in Iraq were in line with article 51 of the UN Charter, which gives member states the right to self defense in the event of attacks, and claimed that the military campaigns are carried out in coordination with the Iraqi authorities.
The Turkish claim is in stark contrast with recent statements by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, who had told Iraqi deputies on 23 July 2022 that over 22,700 violations of Iraqi sovereignty by Turkey have been recorded within the last four years, and that the ministry submitted 296 memoranda of protest against these violations.
Hussein had also said that the only accord between Turkey and Iraq regarding Turkey's cross border operations in Iraq is dated 1984, and it allowed Turkish forces to enter Iraqi territory to a depth of only 5 km and for a duration of just one year.
Impact on civilians
According to an official with KRG, the conflict has emptied at least 800 villages in the region since 2015, driving thousands of people from their homes.
At least 98 civilians were killed in the six years between 2015 and 2021 in Turkish military campaigns, according to an August 2022 report by End Cross-Border Bombing, a coalition of NGOs.