Turkey Pulls out of Iraq - What a pathetic effort.

Turkey yesterday withdrew thousands of its troops from northern Iraq after an eight-day operation to hunt down and wipe out Kurdish guerrilla forces, calming fears of wider regional instability.

Hoshiyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, confirmed that the first big Turkish cross-border ground offensive in a decade had ended with a pre-dawn pullout.

The PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' party, claimed victory, saying the Turks had been defeated in the Zap valley, a guerrilla stronghold which had seen bombing raids and heavy clashes on the ground. Turkey's general staff said: "There was no question of completely liquidating the terrorist organisation but Turkey has shown that northern Iraq is not a safe haven for them."

The Turkish parliament's authorisation to the military last October to strike at the rebels could be used again, CNN-Turk TV quoted the justice minister, Mehmet Ali Sahin, as saying.

The NTV news channel broadcast footage showing convoys of army vehicles crossing the border back into Turkey.

Thousands of Turkish troops, backed by planes, helicopters, tanks and long-range artillery, moved into mountainous northern Iraq in Operation Gunes on February 21 to pre-empt a spring offensive by the PKK fighters, who use the region - outside the control of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdish administration - as a base for attacks on Turkish territory.

Turkey is reported to have been given intelligence assistance by the US, though Washington also urged its Nato ally to keep the incursion short and carefully targeted for fear of undermining security gains elsewhere in Iraq. The US and EU outlaw the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Turkey said it had killed 237 rebels in the offensive and lost 24 soldiers. The PKK said it had killed more than 100 Turkish troops. Iraqi Kurds suspect that Turkey is seeking to undermine the autonomy of Iraq's oil-rich Kurdistan region but Ankara insists it wants only to end terrorism.

The PKK has been fighting for decades for ethnic rights and autonomy in the mainly Kurdish south-east of Turkey. The Ankara government blames the separatist movement for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since 1984. Turkish pressure has gradually squeezed it out of the country

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, visited Ankara on Thursday but said he had failed to obtain a timetable for a withdrawal. General Yasar Buyukanit, chief of Turkey's general staff, told Gates the fight against the PKK would be long term, and that the defence secretary had reacted with "understanding" to his remark.

"Short term is a relative notion. Sometimes it is a day, sometimes it is a year," Buyukanit said. "We have been struggling against terrorism for 24 years. That is why our struggle will continue."

I mean, come on, if you going to invade a country, at least do it the old fashioned way and actually stay and fight. Poor soldiers didn't stay the minimum of 28 days to classify for an OSM IRAQ.

It's like a football match and running off the pitch in the 8th minute.

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