Turkey rules out combat mission in Afghanistan

Turkey rules out combat mission in Afghanistan

December 03, 2009, Thursday/ 15:53:00
Turkey has said it is reviewing whether to increase its commitment to NATO's mission in Afghanistan but has ruled out participating in combat operations.

Turkey, NATO's sole Muslim member, has been steadfast in its support for the US-led campaign in Afghanistan but it fears that participating in combat could alienate Muslims there and in the broader Muslim world.

"Our position is very clear, we have strong reservations about combat operations," Turkey's Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said Wednesday. "Our soldiers are not a part of Operation Enduring Freedom and will not be."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will travel to Washington for a meeting Monday with President Barack Obama, who is seeking additional troops for Afghanistan.

Turkey's participation in the Afghan mission carries enormous symbolic importance because it is the only Muslim country in the force working with US troops to beat back resurgent Taliban deny al-Qaida a safe haven carries enormous symbolic importance because it is the only Muslim.

Turkey took over the rotating command of the NATO peacekeeping operation in Kabul last month and doubled the number of its troops there to around 1,750, the state-run Anatolia news agency said Thursday. None of the Turkish soldiers are assigned to combat missions.

Turkey has indicated it might increase its noncombat forces in Afghanistan.

"We have started reviewing increasing efforts in the field of training Afghan security forces," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Wednesday. The ministry also said Turkey might dramatically increase its contributions to the development of health, education and agriculture in Afghanistan.

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