December 15, 2002
DUBAI (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Sunday it had no information about an alleged movement of U.S. troops and equipment into northern Iraq from Turkey, reported by Turkey’s NTV and the Arabic Al-Jazeera television channel.
A Pentagon spokesman in Washington said: “I have nothing on that.”
A Turkish military spokesman declined to comment on the NTV report and a U.S. embassy official in Ankara told Reuters: “I have heard nothing. (The NTV report) is not substantiated.”
Al-Jazeera quoted Turkish military sources as saying 50 U.S. military trucks had started transporting equipment on Saturday from an air base in southern Turkey into three areas in northern Iraq controlled by Kurds. The report said the trucks had used the Habur border crossing.
“Jazeera learned that there are 500 U.S. special forces training around 2,000 Kurds and making logistical preparations for the arrival of thousands of U.S. troops in the event of an attack on Iraq,” the Qatar-based television channel said.
The Turkish military rarely if ever provides information to foreign media.
The Turkish broadcaster NTV also aired a report on Sunday saying 50 U.S. military vehicles had crossed into Iraq through Habur and that the number of “American intelligence and military personnel in northern Iraq has reached 500.”
NTV did not give a source for the story.
Washington would look to Turkey for the use of air bases in any military operation against neighboring Iraq over Baghdad’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.
The United States already uses Turkish air bases to patrol a so-called “no-fly” zone over northern Iraq that U.S. and British planes have enforced since the start of the Gulf War.