TUNCELI, Turkey — Turkey sent a vanguard of commando troops into northern Iraq overnight in a move that courts U.S. anger and risks confrontation with local Kurdish authorities.
A Turkish military source told Reuters about 1,500 commandos crossed Turkey's southern border at three points late on Friday, aiming to secure access for subsequent, larger deployments.
"Turkish units have begun crossing into northern Iraq to take security measures at various points," the official said.
The United States has told Turkey it would not welcome a unilateral incursion into northern Iraq, where local Kurds are suspicious of Turkish motives and have said such a move could lead to conflict.
"These units will secure the safety of units that will follow. Further crossings will take place at various intervals," the Turkish military source said. He gave no timetable.
Turkey says it needs its troops in Iraq to control refugees and forestall any attempt to create a Kurdish state — a move it fears could reignite separatism on Turkish soil.
The deployment followed days of wrestling between Turkey and the United States — allies in NATO — over U.S. demands that Turkey keep its troops out of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.
Turkey agreed on Friday to allow U.S. warplanes to overfly Turkish territory in attacks on Iraq, after failing to link the issue to free access for its troops to Iraq.
The United States insists the two issues should not be linked.
Turkey's parliament approved the overflights on Thursday after the U.S. unleashed its onslaught on Iraq.
The United States sees an attack from the north on Iraqi forces as a way of relieving the burden on an invasion force now pressing northward to Baghdad.
Turkey has spoken of not going beyond a "buffer zone" reaching some 12 miles into northern Iraq but said it could go deeper if its national interests were threatened.