WASHINGTON - U.S. and Turkish military officials worked yesterday to streamline procedures for any future Turkish attacks against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq after top American officials in Baghdad expressed anger at how Sunday's Turkish air strikes unfolded.
Americans have been giving Turkey intelligence to go after the Kurdish rebels, and a coordination center has been set up in Ankara so Turks, Iraqis and Americans can share information, officials said.
State Department and Defense Department officials in Washington and Baghdad said top U.S. commanders in Iraq did not know about the incursion until the first of two waves of Turkish planes was either crossing the Iraq border or already over it.
The Turkish military did not inform the American military as quickly as had been agreed. That meant the U.S. had to rush to clear air space for the incursion, two defense officials and a State Department official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.
While Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman disputed there was any problem, one Washington official said the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, was angered. Another said American diplomats complained to the Turks about it.
The Turks said that they were chasing rebels and that there was too little time for more prompt notification, a senior State Department official said.
"There are supposed to be coordinating mechanisms for this kind of thing with us and the Iraqis, and whatever happens in the heat of the moment, they have to tell us in a reasonable and timely manner," the official said.
Turkey's ambassador to Washington, Nabi Sensoy, told reporters yesterday the strike against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, was made possible by intelligence given by the United States.
Under an agreement between the countries, Turkey is to analyze U.S. data, decide whether it will take military action, then notify the United States of its plan, one official said.
Sensoy said he was "not aware of any direct complaint" over the timing of Turkey's notification.
None of the officials gave details of precisely what procedures had been agreed to. But one noted that the process is complex because it involves Turkey, Iraq, the U.S. and potentially neighboring governments such as Iran's because some PKK camps are near the Iranian border.
For the United States, the issue cuts across two military commands - the European Command, which takes in Turkey, and the Central Command, which manages the war in Iraq.
It was the American military in Baghdad that ended up notifying the Iraqi government that Turkish planes were attacking rebel positions inside their country.
Iraq's parliament on Monday condemned the bombing, calling it an "outrageous" violation of Iraq's sovereignty that killed innocent civilians. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his government believed Turkey would coordinate with it before striking rebels inside Iraq.
Some reports said up to 50 planes were involved Sunday, which would make the strike the largest aerial attack in years against the outlawed rebel separatist group. Sensoy said 24 aircraft weer involved.
The Turkish army also sent soldiers about 11/2 miles into northern Iraq in an overnight operation on Tuesday, Kurdish officials said. Kurdish officials said the Turkish troops left Iraq about 15 hours later.
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