WASHINGTON – The U.S. military commander in northern Iraq said Friday he plans to do “absolutely nothing” to counter Kurdish rebels who are staging deadly cross-border attacks into neighboring Turkey.
It was the most blunt assertion yet by an American official in the past few weeks that U.S. forces should not be involved in the fight. The Bush administration has said repeatedly that the border crisis should be resolved through diplomacy.
Asked what the U.S. military was planning to do, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon said: “Absolutely nothing.”
Turkey’s top military commander said Friday that Ankara will wait until its prime minister visits Washington before deciding on a cross-border offensive into northern Iraq.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets President Bush in Washington on Nov. 5.
“The armed forces will carry out a cross-border offensive when assigned,” private NTV television quoted Gen. Yasar Buyukanit as saying. “Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to the United States is very important, we will wait for his return.”
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said the government demanded the extradition of Kurdish rebel leaders based in Iraq’s north. Amid talks with a visiting Iraqi delegation, Turkish war planes and helicopters reportedly bombed separatist hideouts within the country’s borders.
During a Friday briefing, Mixon said the rebel activity is not his responsibility, that he’s sent no additional U.S. troops to the border area and he’s not tracking hiding places or logistics activities of rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK.