Turkey is considering deploying more troops to the Bashiqa military camp in northern Iraq due to the increasing threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), if the Ankara-Baghdad talks on the status of the camp fail, sources have told the Hürriyet Daily News.
A visiting Turkish delegation presented a draft to Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Oct. 17 where the parties amended some of the articles following proposals by the Iraqi side, Turkish officials said on condition of anonymity.
The agreement will identify the current status and future of the Turkish troops, with Turkey insisting the soldiers remain stationed in Bashiqa until the end of the Mosul offensive. A formula that would bring the status of the Bashiqa camp under the mandate of the coalition forces has long been proposed by Turkey.
The next round of talks between Ankara and Baghdad will be held upon a reply from the Iraqi side.
Meanwhile, ISIL fighters on Oct. 26 kept up their fierce defense of the southern approaches to Mosul which has held up Iraqi troops on the southern front and forced an elite army unit east of the city to put its more rapid advance on hold.
Ten days into the offensive, Iraqi army and federal police units are trying to dislodge the militants from villages in the region of Shora, 30 kilometers south of Iraq’s second largest city.
The frontlines in other areas have moved much closer to the edges of Mosul, the last major city under control of the militants in Iraq, who have held it since 2014.
The elite army unit which moved in from the east has paused its advance as it approaches built-up areas, waiting for the other attacking forces to close the gap.
“As Iraqi forces move closer to Mosul, we see that Daesh [ISIL] resistance is getting stronger,” said Maj. Chris Parker, a coalition spokesman at the Qayyara airbase south of Mosul that serves as a hub for the campaign, which U.S.’ CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel visited on Oct. 25.
Qayyarah West, located about 60 kilometerssouth of the city, has been resurrected after jihadists smashed it to pieces when they seized much of northern Iraq in 2014.
Votel’s C-130 cargo plane touched down in total darkness, one of the first fixed-wing aircraft in years to land at the base.
“This is where supplies will come into, it’s where Iraqi forces will come into. Being able to sustain the fight for the Iraqi forces will be critical, and this airfield will play a very important role,” Votel told reporters travelling with him.
As the offensive continued, around 700 people fled the village of Tob Zawa early on Tuesday, escaping the military operation to recapture Iraq’s second biggest city from the jihadists who have controlled it for nearly two and a half years.
Special forces Maj. Gen. Haider Fadhil said residents of Tob Zawa and other villages were taken to a camp in the nearby Khazer region for their safety.
Tob Zawa, close to the main road into Mosul from the east, is one of the first populated villages reached by Iraqi counter-terrorism forces after they cleared ISIL last week from a Christian region which has been largely empty since 2014.
U.N. aid agencies said the fighting has so far forced about 10,600 to flee their homes. Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told Reuters on Oct. 25 that a mass exodus could happen, maybe within the next few days.