The United States is considering a request from Turkey to base Predator drones there to operate against Kurdish separatists based in northern Iraq, The Washington Post reported late Saturday.
Citing unnamed senior US military officials, the newspaper said a decision to deploy the drones could strengthen the US-Turkish diplomatic alliance but draw the United States deeper into the conflict.
The US military has flown unarmed Predators from Iraqi bases since 2007, sharing their surveillance video with Turkey as part of a secretive crackdown against fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the report said.
But the counterterrorism partnership could end by December 31, when all US forces are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq.
According to The Post, US President Barack Obama's administration has not yet made a decision on the Turkish request.
Last month, the United States offered Turkey its continued support in the fight against PKK rebels, after they claimed responsibility for the deaths of eight Turkish soldiers in an ambush.
The attack took place in the Cukurca region of Hakkari province, close to the border with Iraq. Eleven others were injured.
Previously undisclosed diplomatic cables show Turkey has become highly dependent on the Predators, U-2 spy aircraft and other US intelligence sources in its military campaign against the PKK, The Post said.