Pentagon giving Turkey intelligence on Kurdish rebels

WASHINGTON — The U.S. acknowledged today it has undertaken military moves against Kurdish rebels in Iraq after asserting for weeks that their strikes in Turkey were a diplomatic matter.

Pentagon officials are now starting to say publicly that the U.S. is flying manned spy planes over the border area, providing Turkey with more intelligence information, and that there are standing orders for American forces to capture rebels they find.

Only last Friday, the U.S. commander in northern Iraq, Maj. Gen Benjamin Mixon, said he planned to do “absolutely nothing” to counter Kurdish rebels operating from the region.

But the top American commander in Iraq, in comments that appeared aimed at allaying Turkish frustration over the matter, said Sunday the U.S. military was playing a role in trying to defuse tensions.

Gen. David Petraeus declined to elaborate. Since then, however, Pentagon officials have detailed a number of examples to undermine the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, holed up in bases in northern Iraq.

“We are assisting the Turks in their efforts to combat the PKK by supplying them with intelligence, lots of intelligence,” Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

He said 10 members of the PKK — which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization — are in a U.S. “most-wanted” database. That means American forces have had standing orders for some time to pick them up if they are found.

Turkey has complained for months about what it contends is a lack of U.S. support against the PKK. The Turkish government has threatened a full-scale ground attack into northern Iraq if the U.S. and Iraqi officials fail to do something about the rebels.

“We have given them more and more intelligence as a result of the recent concerns. … There has been an increased level of intelligence sharing,” Morrell told reporters.

He did not say when the stepped-up cooperation began or how the intelligence was being gathered. But the military in the last week or so has sent manned U-2 spy planes to areas used by rebels and is providing reconnaissance on the border, a defense official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The official also said the U.S. military saw a battalion of several hundred Peshmerga — the militia of the Kurdish Iraqi regional authorities — move toward the border over the weekend.

Top Defense Department and State Department officials have said that Iraq’s Kurdish regional government should cut rebel supplies and disrupt rebel movement over the border, and that Washington is frustrated by Kurdish inaction.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested last week that airstrikes or major ground assaults by U.S., Turkish, or other forces would not help much because not enough is known about where the rebels are at a given time.

The U.S. and Iraqi governments have urged Turkey not to send troops across the border and are promoting a diplomatic solution. They fear a large military operation, opening a new front in the Iraq war, would unsettle what is now the most stable part of the country.

A Turkish incursion would also put the United States in an awkward position involving NATO-member Turkey, the Baghdad government and the self-governing Iraqi Kurds in the north.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said this week that it was “unavoidable that Turkey will have to go through a more intensive military process” to counter the rebels. Turkish forces have been shelling rebel positions near the border.

Erdogan plans talks with President Bush next week in Washington.

“We expect the Iraqis to step up and make sure that they are doing everything they can to eradicate the PKK,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said today.

“Turkey has a right to defend its people, it has a right to look for its soldiers, and we are asking Turkey, as well, to exercise restraint and to limit its exercises to the PKK. And so far that’s continuing to work, but it takes a lot of dialogue and discussions,” she said.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

Granite Falls
Man, 35, dies from heart attack while hiking Lake 22

The man suffered a heart attack about 1½ miles into the 6-mile hike east of Granite Falls on Friday, authorities said.

36 hours after final show, Everett radio host Charlye Parker, 80, dies

When Parker got into radio, she was a rarity: a woman in a DJ booth. For the past 12 years, she hosted weekend country music shows at KXA.

Homeowners Jim and Chris Hall stand beneath their new heat pump, at right, inside their Whidbey Island home on Thursday, Sep. 7, 2023, near Langley, Washington. The couple, who are from Alaska, have decreased their use of their wood burning stove to reduce their carbon footprint. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County to start ‘kicking gas’ in push for all-electric homes

Last year, 118 Whidbey Island homes installed energy-efficient heat pumps. A new campaign aims to make the case for induction stoves now, too.

Dr. Scott Macfee and Dr. Daniel Goodman outside of the Community Health Center on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett CHC doctors, feeling like ‘commodities,’ speak up on ailing system

At the Community Health Center of Snohomish County, doctors say they feel like “rats getting off a sinking ship.” They want it to get better.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Man charged with shooting at ex-girlfriend, child in Mountlake Terrace

The man, 21, showed up to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and opened fire through the door, new court records say.

People walk along Olympic Avenue past Lifeway Cafe and Olympic Theater that currently hosts Lifeway Church on Friday, July 7, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington churches waged covert ‘battle’ against Pride event, records show

Sermons, emails and interviews reveal how an LGBTQ+ nonprofit became the target of a covert campaign by local evangelical leaders.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.