PBS NewsHour

Carter to meet with Turkey leaders, stress Iraqi sovereignty

File photo of Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

File photo of Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

ANKARA, Turkey — Defense Secretary Ash Carter, arriving in Turkey Friday, said he will tell Turkish leaders that it’s important to respect Iraqi sovereignty. But he stopped short of saying that he will press the Turks to remove any forces that are operating in Iraq without Baghdad’s invitation.

Carter’s expected meetings in Ankara with top leaders and defense officials come amid escalating tensions between Turkey and Iraq, over Turkish military operations in northern Iraq as allied forces move to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants.

“We’ve long had discussions with everyone about this – about respect for Iraqi sovereignty in the course of the conduct of the counter-ISIL campaign,” Carter told reporters traveling with him to Turkey. “It’s very important for all the members of the counter-ISIL campaign to participate in that integrated way. Will I be talking with the Turks about that? Absolutely.”

It was not clear how strong Carter intended to be in his discussions with Turkish leaders, or what impact it could have on the situation.

The key is to “keep everybody focused on the object here which is to defeat ISIL,” Carter said, using another acronym for the Islamic State, “because that is a threat to all three of us.”

The angry rhetoric between Iraq and Turkey has grown as the Mosul campaign continues to take shape.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have traded insults, and earlier this week thousands of followers of a Shiite cleric rallied outside the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, calling for an end to the Turkish “occupation.”

They were referring to the presence of some 500 Turkish troops at a base north of Mosul who have been training Sunni and Kurdish fighters since last December. Baghdad says the troops are there without permission and has called on them to withdraw. Ankara has refused, and insists it will play a role in liberating the city.

The Turkish troops are training Kurdish forces loyal to Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.

At the same time, the U.S. is also looking into reports that Turkish jets and artillery struck Syrian Kurds in northern Syria on Thursday, killing as many as 200.

Carter also said he has few details on the incident, and questions remain about the casualty total and whether or not the Kurdish forces were ones backed by the U.S.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told Carter that Turkey expects the Syrian Kurdish militia to leave the Syrian town of Manbij and to move east of the river Euphrates, as promised.

“We cannot trust the words of terror organizations; we cannot know what the (Kurdish militants) will do tomorrow,” a Turkish official quoted Isik as telling Carter. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the conversation publicly.

The Syrian Kurdish forces have been a source of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the United States. The U.S. considers the militia group — the People’s Protection Units or YPG — to be the most effective force in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria. Turkey says it’s an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish militants who have carried out a series of deadly attacks in Turkey in the past and considers it to be a terrorist organization.

Carter said he also wants to talk to Turkish leaders about the ongoing effort to secure Turkey’s border with Syria. Turkey has stepped up its military air and ground operations against the Islamic State group in Syria, and recently was able to help retake the symbolically important town of Dabiq from the Islamic State group.

That, said Carter, was a “very significant victory.”


Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser contributed to this report.

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News Wrap: ‘Humanitarian pause’ begins in Aleppo

People carry Free Syrian Army flags while attending a protest against
         evacuating civilians out of Aleppo, in the rebel held besieged al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman
         Ismail  - RTX2PR5K

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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: A Russia-Syrian humanitarian pause took effect in Syria in the besieged city of Aleppo. It could run as long as four days. Using loudspeakers, the Syrian military urged residents to leave and gunmen to lay down their weapons. The Syrian army also dropped leaflets.

But the U.N.’s special envoy said he doubts the effort will work.

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, UN Special Envoy for Syria: Certainly, my feeling is that, from what I’m hearing, that the people do not want to leave their places. They do not want to become refugees. They want to stay in their place. But they do request, stop the bombings, which needs to be, by the way, from both sides.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a separate fight north of Aleppo. Turkey attacked Syrian Kurds who’ve been fighting Islamic State forces. Military footage showed airstrikes on Kurdish fighters linked to a group the U.S. supports. Turkey says they’re also tied to militants fighting the Turkish government.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Iraq, the battle for Mosul claimed its first American casualty, a soldier killed by a roadside bomb. U.S. forces are advising Iraqis in their campaign to retake the city from the Islamic State. First, they have to capture outlying towns.

And John Irvine of Independent Television News reports on the harrowing trip of one such unit.

JOHN IRVINE, Independent Television News: A new day brought a fresh assault, and taking the fight I.S. for the first time, where Iraq special forces came to quickly make their mark.

The attack was a pincer movement, and we were in the lead vehicle with a team of (INAUDIBLE) who had to find safe passage through the land mines. Two led the way on foot, but soon came under sniper fire. A gunship was called in. The sniping was ended.

The explosives experts called for a tank to join them before leaving the Kalamoff (ph) Road and on to the safer ground that is the countryside. We were venturing into the so-called caliphate, and the Iraqi forces put down a lot of suppressing fire. But the telltale pings on our vehicle indicated that I.S. were still putting up a night.

We’re coming under sniper fire and firing back. That’s the problem with being in the lead vehicle in an offensive which right now is pretty slow-going.

Later, the special forces fired on a saloon car which had overturned speeding down a road. When nothing happened, we wondered if the driver had been an innocent just trying to flee the battlefield. No, he was a suicide bomber who had missed us. We were just glad that, at the end of the day, all of us and our battered vehicle had come through.

Only, it wasn’t the end of the day — a fourth car bomb attack on the convoy. Mosul is still a few days away for Iraqi forces, and the closer they get, the harder it will become.

HARI SREENIVASAN: There are 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. About 100 are embedded with Iraqi and Kurdish forces around Mosul. We will talk later to retired General David Petraeus. He commanded U.S. troops in Mosul in 2003.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. military confirms that North Korea test-fired another ballistic missile overnight, but it crashed shortly after launch. That’s the second failed test since Saturday. It came hours after the U.S. and South Korea agreed to strengthen military and diplomatic efforts against the North.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, announced today what he calls a separation from the U.S. Duterte spoke in Beijing after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and signing a major commercial deal. Afterward, he said that in military and economic terms, America has lost.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE, Philippines: Maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world, China, Philippines and Russia.


HARI SREENIVASAN: Duterte also said he will work with Xi to settle their maritime dispute in the South China Sea. In Washington, the State Department called the comments baffling and said it will seek an explanation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A super typhoon blasted the Northern Philippines overnight with winds of 140 miles an hour. It was the most powerful storm to hit the country in three years, but the death toll of seven was far lower than feared. The storm did trigger flooding, landslides and power outages. Nearly 100,000 people had been evacuated ahead of time.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The European Space Agency now says its latest Mars lander may have crashed. Ground controllers lost contact with the experimental probe yesterday as it dropped toward the surface. Animation showed how the lander was supposed to use a parachute and thrusters to make a soft landing. Europe’s last attempt at a Mars landing also failed back in 2003.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street, stocks closed lower, giving up yesterday’s modest gains. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 40 points to close at 18162. The Nasdaq fell four, and the S&P 500 slipped nearly three.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And for wine lovers, it’s a case of sour grapes.  A global survey out today finds this year’s production is the lowest since 2012.  Floods, drought and other bad weather took a toll across Europe and South America.  Wine output in the U.S. actually went up slightly.

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Petraeus says there’s a bigger challenge to come once Iraq retakes Mosul from ISIS

An Iraqi special forces soldier fires an RPG during clashes with
         Islamic States fighters in Bartella, east of Mosul, Iraq October 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic     TPX IMAGES OF THE
         DAY      - RTX2PQI0

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle for Mosul is the most important of the two-year campaign against ISIS in Iraq, and a defeat there would be a crippling setback for the extremists.

We turn now to a man with detailed knowledge of the city and its ethnic and sectarian crosscurrents. Retired General David Petraeus was in charge of the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul in 2003. He went on to command the entire multinational force in Iraq and also served as the top general for U.S. Central Command. He also ran NATO and American operations in Afghanistan. And, from 2011 to 2012, he served as director of the CIA.

He joins me now from New York.

General Petraeus, thank you for being with us.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, Former Commander, Multi-National Force Iraq: Good to be with you, Judy. Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, last night at the debate, Donald Trump again criticized the Obama administration for telegraphing ahead of time the plan to go into Mosul.

Does Donald Trump have a point about not letting the enemy know what you’re going to do?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: What is going on here is, in a sense, a distinction between so-called strategic surprise, which is not possible when you’re moving tens of thousands of troops and thousands of vehicles and logistics and everything else, and then tactical surprise, which I think probably was achieved to some degree when the Iraqi forces launched the original operation several days ago, and actually has continued, as they have opened new offensives, if you will, from the north and the northeast, in addition to those in the initial day, which came from the south and from the southeast and east.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the challenges that the Iraqi military and its allies, including the U.S., face in Mosul?

You know that area well. Clearly, it’s changed since the takeover by ISIS. But what do you think they’re confronting?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well, first, of course, they’re confronting what would be a tough fight in a city that’s several times larger than any that they have cleared so far over the course of the last two years, since we helped them reconstitute their forces, reequip, and retrain and remand them, and then as we have enabled them so impressively, frankly, with this armada of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, precision-strike assets and intelligence fusion, as well as obviously advising and assisting them.

And they will encounter a tough, tough city fight. Urban operations are inherently difficult. The enemy has been there for a couple of years, has dug tunnel systems, trenches filled with oil that they will torch to try to obscure our optics. They will use snipers. And every single house, every single neighborhood has to be cleared.

And this is a population that used to be, in our day, when I was privileged to command the 101st Airborne Division, in Mosul and Nineveh province, which Mosul Islamist capital, some two million people. It’s down probably to about 1.2 million now.

Some of those will leave and go to the refugees centers that have been set up to take care of them during the course of the battle. But many will also stay. And some will be trapped and kept there by the Islamic State, used essentially as human shields, announcement complicating factor for the Iraqi security forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and indeed for our elements that are supporting them in this fight.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I do want to ask you about the challenges that the Iraqis face even assuming Mosul is cleared of ISIS.

But, first, are you confident that they will be able to get ISIS out of Mosul? And do you think it could take as long as a year, which the head of Central Command has said that it might?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: No, I think — with respect, I think he said it could take months, I think. Understandably, he’s giving a bit of the worst-case analysis.

It’s already moving faster than most predicted. I have said that, look, the Islamic State fighters that are left in Mosul, maybe as many as 5,000 or 6,000, they realize that they are dead men walking. There’s no question that the Iraqi security forces, with all of the enablers that we’re providing them, are going to clear that city. That’s not in question.

The only question is, how long do the Islamic State fighters really put up resistance? There are reports already of substantial numbers of deserters, many of whom have been executed, and of leaders trying to leave the city as well.

In fact, one of the big questions that is out there right now is, where is Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State? Is he trapped there with one of his explosives experts, or did he actually escape to the west and try to get back across the border to Syria?

But, again, no question that the Iraqi security forces will prevail. The bigger question is actually the battle after this. And I have made clear in writing a couple of months ago, for example, that the most complex human terrain in all of Iraq is to be found in Mosul and the province of which it is a capital, Nineveh, biblical Nineveh.

There are Sunni Arabs in the majority, but there are also pockets of Shia Arabs. There are Turkmen, Sunni as well as Shia. There are Kurds, and they come from several political parties that they’re not always in agreement with each other. There are sizable numbers of Christians that were treated horribly under the Islamic State and want to get back to their areas. There are Yazidis. There are Shabak.

And all of these want to get back from whence they came, and they want to play a part in governance that follows. And all will want to be represented and want that government to be responsive to them and guarantee their minority rights, if they’re not the Sunni Arabs, in addition to, of course, the Sunni Arab majority rule.

This is going to be very, very difficult. We did achieve it early on in 2003, when I was privileged to command there. But we had 28,000 great American soldiers. We had 254 helicopters. And I had the authority of being an occupying commander under the Geneva Convention, and didn’t hesitate, frankly, to use that authority.

There’s no equivalent power there at this point in time. So, this is going to take intense politics, intense negotiations and a lot of individuals undoubtedly demonstrating the full range of emotions along the way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, are you confident that the current Iraqi government is prepared to do what’s necessary to make sure that Mosul is stable going forward?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: I’m confident that they will do everything they possibly can.

The question is whether, frankly, that is going to be enough. There are going to be enormous grievances. There will be scores that some want to settle. Even within the sectarian groupings and ethnic groupings, there will be squabbles and disputes.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi knows that the government has to be inclusive. He knows that, for Iraq writ large, the Sunni Arabs have to be brought back into the fabric of society, as we were able to do during the surge.

One of the huge accomplishments, which sadly was undone some three-and-a-half years after the end of the surge by the previous prime minister, who took highly sectarian actions that inflamed that part of the population, allowed the Islamic State to get back up off its stomach, and indeed created fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism.

The people now have once again been acquainted with that form of extremism. They want nothing of it. The people are actually reported rising up against the Islamic State in some of the villages outside Mosul, and undoubtedly will do that in some Mosul neighborhoods as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, finally, role for the U.S. in all of this is? Is it essential that the U.S. have a role here or not?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: It is essential that the U.S. has a role.

And I can assure you that the new ambassador there, the new commander on the ground, both experienced Iraq hands, both have multiple tours there in past years, that they are keenly aware that they have to engage in that, as is the special presidential enjoy, Brett McGurk, who has spent an enormous amount of time in Baghdad and Irbil up in the Kurdish regional government capital, trying to help foster all of this.

But that’s the extent of what we can do. We can encourage, we can nudge, we can cajole. We can’t force. And it is going to have to be Iraqis at the end of the day that come together, recognizing that, if they cannot, fertile fields will be planted for the planting of the seeds of ISIS 3.0, of further extremism in Iraq.

JUDY WOODRUFF: General David Petraeus, we thank you very much.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Great to be back with you, Judy. Thank you.

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‘Turing’s Law’ will pardon thousands of men convicted in UK for being gay

A rainbow flag flies with the Union flag above British Cabinet Offices. Photo by Neil Hall/Reuters

A rainbow flag flies with the Union flag above British Cabinet Offices. Photo by Neil Hall/Reuters

Thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted under Britain’s now-defunct sexual offense laws will be posthumously pardoned.

The Ministry of Justice announced the proposed amendment Thursday that would posthumously pardon thousands convicted under those outdated laws. The so-called “Turing’s Law” would also allow those who are living to apply to have their names removed from criminal records.

Lord John Sharkey, the man behind the amendment, called the development “momentous” and said that of the 65,000 men convicted under the laws, 15,000 are still alive, BBC reported.

The UK justice minister also hailed the proposal.

“It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today,” Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said in a statement.

The pardon plan has been named after the British mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing, who played a crucial role in cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code, greatly helping the Allies reduce casualties and accelerate the end of the war.

In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts and convicted of gross indecency. He underwent chemical castration to avoid prison and committed suicide in 1954 at the age of 41.

Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a royal pardon in 2013, and his story was dramatized in the 2014 film “The Imitation Game.”

[Watch Video]

The 2015 film “The Imitation Game” tells the story of British mathematician Alan Turing, whose early computer helped the allies win World War II. But the movie also brings attention to the anti-sodomy laws that drove Turing to suicide. Jeffrey Brown speaks with Peter Tatchell of the Peter Tatchell Foundation about getting justice for others convicted under the same laws.

Homosexual acts were not decriminalized in England and Wales until 1967. The laws were changed in Scotland in 1980 and in Northern Ireland two years later.

Other members of Parliament are backing a more expansive measure that would not require people to apply for the pardon. The UK justice minister said he is not supporting that idea.

“A blanket pardon, without the detailed investigations carried out by the Home Office under the disregard process, could see people guilty of an offence which is still a crime today claiming to be pardoned,” Gyimah said in a statement.

The Ministry of Justice noted that people convicted of sexual acts that were non-consensual or with an underage person would not be pardoned.

But some who could be pardoned under the amendment reject the offer.

George Montague, convicted of gross indecency with another man in 1974, told BBC Newsnight that he wants an apology, not a pardon.

“To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything. I was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

READ MORE: 8 things you didn’t know about Alan Turing

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