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Turkey Sending Special Forces to Aid US Efforts in Afghanistan - 2001-11-01

Turkey announced Thursday it will contribute troops to the U.S.-led military effort in Afghanistan. Turkey is the first predominantly Muslim country to commit forces to the campaign against the Taleban.

In a statement, the government said it was sending about 90 elite combat forces to Afghanistan in response to a request from the United States. The statement said the move was in line with Turkey's duties as a NATO member state and in conformity with United Nations resolutions to combat global terrorism.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks September 11, NATO said it regarded the attacks as being directed at all alliance members.

The Ankara government outlined a broad mandate for the troops, saying they would help in "training and preparation of the Northern Alliance," the opposition coalition that is fighting the Taleban.

The Turkish forces are to help in developing what the statement describes as "a broad-based administration" that will involve all ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Turkey has a long history of cooperation with Afghanistan, cooperation that was interrupted when the Taleban seized power in 1996.

Even before Thursday's announcement, Turkey had taken steps to assist the military effort against the Taleban by opening its skies and bases to U.S. military aircraft taking part in operations in Afghanistan.

Recent opinion polls show that most Turks are opposed to their country's involvement in Afghanistan. But analysts say that Turkey's participation will enhance its regional stature and prove once again the country's value to the West.

The analysts add that Turkey's action is also likely to improve its chances of receiving much-needed international loans to bolster its economy, which has been in crisis.

Turkish troops have wide experience in overseas missions ranging from Korea to Somalia and Bosnia to Kosovo.