Controversy in Ankara after Turkish troops start pulling out of Iraqi Kurdistan
Press agrees that military withdrawal is tied to US pressures for an end to the operation. Turkish president confirms it was a “national” decision.

Ankara (AsiaNews) – Turkish troops are pulling out of Iraqi Kurdistan after the military said that its objectives were reached. But controversy dogs the decision as some see it as the result of US pressure.

Turkey’s press focused on the “unexpected” pullout from Iraq. According to Hürriyet, the decision came a day after United States Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ trip to Ankara and Bush's call for a short and carefully targeted operation.

Other papers share that view. The Turkish Daily News noted that the withdrawal occurred a few after the US message. The newspaper explained that the United States has to balance Turkey’s interests against those of the Kurds.

Yeni Safak asked “What happened during Gates' visit to Ankara?”

The controversy has involved Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whilst President Abdullah Gül said that he “of course [. . .] knew when the troops would withdraw. But every phase of the operation can't be shared with public.”'

The Turkish Army’s General Staff responded to criticisms on why troops returned from a cross-border operation earlier than expected with photographs (one is reprinted here) from the operation carried out in challenging geographical and severe winter conditions.

“They were not on holiday on Uludag for skiing,” titled the Vatan.

Finally, the New Anatolian wrote that Ankara accepted to pull its troops from northern Iraq after the United States pledged support for future limited operations against the PKK.