Report: US drones deployed in Turkey
The United States has deployed four Predator drones at an air base in southern Turkey, a news report said on Friday Todayszaman reported
The report, published in Turkish daily Taraf, said a total of four drones arrived in İncirlik air base on Oct. 16 and Oct. 23, many days before Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed with US President Barack Obama a Turkish request to purchase drones to be used in the fight against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in Paris.
But deployment of the US drones in Turkish territory is separate from the Turkish request for purchase of drones from the US. In September, the Washington Post reported that Turkey sought deployment of a fleet of US drones in its territory as a measure to be used against the PKK after US withdrawal from Iraq. Later in September, Erdoğan said the US has agreed in principle to the Turkish request to deploy its drones in Turkish soil.
In addition to hosting US drones in its soil, Turkey also seeks to buy its own armed drones from the United States, seeking to purchase MQ-9 Reapers, a larger and more modern version of the Predator. The request, however, has been controversial, with some in the Congress refusing to sell the aircraft to Turkey given Ankara's deteriorating relations with Israel, a close US ally.
Taraf said the drones now based in İncirlik will be used to monitor movements of the PKK, but they will not provide real-time data from their surveillance flights for the Turkish authorities. Data from the drones' flights will be sent to the United States before reaching the Turkish officials. No Turkish personnel will be involved in command of the flights of the drones and no guarantee has been offered to the Turkish hosts that the drones will not be used against third countries, Taraf said, citing unanymous military sources.
The lack of Turkish control over flights of the US drones, according to the report, could mean they could change their route and spy on Turkish targets, such as critical military buildings, instead of the PKK targets, without Turkish authorities even noticing it.
Turkey's requests to host US drones and buy its own drones from the US surfaced as Washington prepares to withdraw its forces from Iraq by end of 2011. US drones based in Iraq as part of the Iraqi operation have been providing Turkish officials with data regarding the PKK movements since 2007, as part of Turkish-US cooperation against the terrorist group.