Backed by U.S.-led warplanes, Iraqi troops are preparing to launch a military operation to oust Daesh militants from Mosul, which was overrun by the terrorist group in early 2014.
“A Turkish role in the battle of liberation will help us return to our homes,” Khalid al-Jabouri, a displaced Iraqi, told Anadolu Agency.
“The Turkish forces will not destroy [the city’s] infrastructure as militias do,” he said.
Turkey has been locked in a row with Iraqi authorities over who should participate in the U.S.-led offensive in Mosul, which is expected to start soon.
Ankara fears that the participation of Shia militias in the Mosul offensive will stoke sectarian tension and trigger an exodus of refugees.
According to the UN, more than 3.4 million people are now displaced in Iraq — more than half of them children — while more than 10 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
Bashar Saman, the director of Shabab al-Ghad (“Youth of Tomorrow”) NGO, said his organization has surveyed the opinion of 300 Mosul residents about the Turkish participation in the anti-Daesh offensive.
“Most respondents have welcomed the Turkish participation in the onslaught,” he told Anadolu Agency.
According to Saman, Mosul residents see the Turkish troops “regular and disciplined forces who follow certain military rules.”
“They don’t act like militias, which only seek to take part in the offensive for the sake of revenge,” he said.
Saman went on to note that most respondents consider the Turkish troops “a part of the [U.S.-led] international coalition”.
“They are capable of protecting civilians and cruising the area to stability until the local police are able to maintain security,” he said.
Many residents fear that the participation of Shia militias — which the Iraqi army has relied on in the past – would stoke sectarian unrest in Mosul.
“Mosul residents reject the participation of the Hashd al-Shaabi militia in the onslaught,” Saman said.
“They want to replace these militias with regular and trained troops, whose main goal is to fight terrorism,” he added.
Established in mid-2014, the Hashd al-Shaabi consists of Shia volunteers who have fought alongside Iraqi security forces in an effort to recapture Iraqi cities from Daesh.
The Shia militia, however, has been accused of committing abuses against the Sunni populations of cities recently retaken from Daesh.
“These militias must not be allowed to participate in the Mosul offensive,” Mohamed al-Dreighi, in his 30s, told Anadolu Agency.
Last year, international human rights groups had accused the Shia militia of committing abuses and killing civilians when it had retaken control of predominantly Sunni areas in the provinces of Saladin and Diyala.
Iraqi military expert Adnan Sadoun believes the Turkish military participation will be the “best choice” for avoiding sectarianism in Mosul.
“The Turkish role in the Mosul offensive will deny Daesh the opportunity to stoke sectarian tension,” he said.
He went on to stress that Turkish troops “are among the elite forces in the region and have an expertise in street warfare”.