Cross-border conflict leads to change in policy
The Wall Street Journal is reporting via defense officials that Ankara has agreed to allow the United States to launch air strikes against ISIS from the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.
This is a departure from previous Turkish policy, which until now only allowed drone launches from the base. No Turkish aircraft will be used in any strikes launched by the US.
Reuters reports that a deal between President Obama and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan may have been reached as early as Wednesday; White House press secretary Josh Earnest told the media today that the two leaders have reached an agreement to “deepen” cooperation in the fight against ISIS, but didn’t go into details.
Turkey’s concerns about the violence in Syria go beyond the threat ISIS poses to the rest of the world. Until now, Turkish officials have refused to lead on the Islamic State pushback, citing concerns that merely taking out ISIS will not quash the violence caused by intra-Syrian conflict. Ankara has advocated for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in exchange for a larger role.
With deteriorating situation on the Turkish-Syrian border, however, Ankara has indicated that they’re ready for a change in policy.
More from Reuters:
Ankara has refused to take a frontline role in military action against Islamic State and said only the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – not just air strikes on the radical Islamists – can bring peace.
Turkey’s stance has frustrated some of its NATO allies, including the United States, whose priority is fighting Islamic State rather than Assad. The allies have urged Turkey to do more to prevent its Syrian border being used as a conduit by foreign jihadists.
Turkey is also concerned about disruption among its Kurdish minority, which mainly lives near the southeastern border.
Earlier on Thursday Turkish forces fired tank shells across the border after coming under fire from Islamic State militants that killed a Turkish soldier near Kilis, an area where Ankara had recently sent reinforcements.
The fighting came days after a suspected suicide bombing by the Islamist radical group in the Turkish border town of Suruc killed 32 people, many of them students and some of them Kurds, touching off waves of violence.
Currently, the US has six predator drones stationed at Incirlik, two of which are armed with hellfire missiles.
With Turkey taking an expanded role in the fight against ISIS, I’m interested to see how officials alter their response, if at all, to Turkey’s role as a springboard into Syria for those looking to join the ranks of the Islamic State. Since last year, western officials have had to run continual defense against an influx of converts, most of whom hop flights into Turkey and then cross the Syrian border.DONATE
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