November 1: Military Intelligence
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey will deploy special forces troops to Afghanistan, the government said Thursday, becoming the first Muslim nation to join in the U.S.-led attacks against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.
Turkey, a member of NATO, said it would send a 90-man unit to northern Afghanistan to combat terrorists, train anti-Taliban fighters and support humanitarian aid operations.
Turkey's contribution is the latest sign that allied forces are preparing for a sustained campaign of surprise raids by small, elite units. Britain, Australia and Canada are sending special forces to fight alongside U.S. troops, and France is considering a similar contribution.
The Turkish force would also conduct reconnaissance missions as well as protect and evacuate civilians, the announcement from the Turkish premier's office said.
Turkey's special forces are experienced in guerrilla warfare after fighting Kurdish rebels for more than 15 years in mountainous southeast Turkey.
However, the action could spur more protests in Turkey, where polls suggest more than 80 percent of Turks oppose troop deployment in Afghanistan. Some Turks are uncomfortable with attacking another Muslim country, but most fear that the war could spread to Iraq and then to Turkey, deepening an already crippling economic crisis.
Police on Thursday used tear gas and nightsticks to break up a group of university students in Istanbul who chanted anti-U.S. slogans and condemned the attacks against Afghanistan. Police detained 50 students.
``Those who portray this campaign as an action against Islam are contradicting the high values of Islam, which is a religion of peace,'' the statement from Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's office said. ``The success of the U.S.-led operation is for the good of humanity.''
The statement said the decision was carefully evaluated by the military and civilian leadership in light of Turkey's obligations under NATO and a U.S. request made last week. The Turkish Cabinet approved it on Thursday.
``It is aimed at contributing to the formation of a broad-based government with the participation of all ethnic groups, and at serving our Afghan brothers by helping to install stability in this country,'' the statement read.
It was not clear when the Turkish soldiers would head for Afghanistan. Turkey has already sent a military delegation led by a general to operational headquarters in Tampa, Fla., to coordinate Turkey's military contribution.
Turkey has long had contacts with Afghan opposition groups, especially the forces of Gen. Rashid Dostum, one of the Northern Alliance leaders. Dostum's fighters are largely Uzbeks, a group that has close ethnic links with Turks. The Taliban are mostly ethnic Pashtun.
Turkey has offered to train anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan and said it could even provide peacekeepers when conditions are right.
A strong Turkish role in future peacekeeping could ease friction between the peacekeepers and Afghans. Turkey has also participated in NATO peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Bosnia, which have Muslim populations.
Transport aircraft taking part in the U.S.-led operation are apparently using Turkey's southern Incirlik air base as a transport hub. The base is also a staging point for patrols above northern Iraq by U.S. planes.
WASHINGTON (Nov. 1) - The general commanding the U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan said in an interview aired Thursday he remained uncertain about the capabilities and trustworthiness of local forces opposed to the ruling Taliban.
Marine Corps Gen. Tommy Franks, in an interview taped Wednesday for NBC's ''Today'' program, also said he sensed no pressure from President Bush or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be ''anywhere other than right where we are today'' in the campaign.
Small numbers of U.S. troops are in Afghanistan working with forces opposing the Taliban and the United States will continue to review how many are needed, Franks said.
The hard-line Taliban have rejected U.S. calls to hand over Osama bin Laden, the U.S.-accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 airliner-hijacking blitz that killed nearly 5,000 people in the United States.
Franks was asked how helpful the opposition fighters had been to the U.S.-led effort that began Oct. 7 with a bombing campaign and ''to what degree can they be trusted.''
''Well, we're not sure,'' he replied. ''But what we are doing right now is establishing contact with these opposition groups so we can determine where we have common goals, where we have common interests, where we can see a way ahead that will be satisfying to both of us.''
The general made clear such contacts were not just the Northern Alliance, the largest coalition of anti-Taliban forces, but with other groups as well.
Franks heads the Tampa, Florida-based U.S. Central Command, which has operational responsibility for the campaign in Afghanistan. He was interviewed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, launch pad for the hundreds of thousands of emergency meals being airdropped to displaced people in Afghanistan.
REUTERS Reut08:18 11-01-01