Turkey, US meet to discuss training of Syrian rebels
Uğur Ergan ANKARA
AFP PhotoMilitary officials from the United States and Turkey are meeting for a third time to finalize discussions on equipping and training moderate Syrian rebels, as U.S. media outlets report that Washington is considering a shift in in its Syria policy.
The high-ranking military delegations from both countries will gather in the Turkish General Staff’s headquarters in Ankara today and put in place the details on the training of Syrian militant groups that are fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The parties are expected to make a final decision on how many and where militants will be trained in Turkey during the meeting. In the previous meetings, the training program was set to be kicked off at the end of December at a gendarmerie training center in Central Anatolian province of Kırşehir.
According to sources, around 2,000 Syrian fighters are slated to be given military training and the focus of the training will be on the northwestern governorate of Aleppo, which is currently besieged by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, sparking warnings from the Turkish government.
Another issue on the agenda will be whether or not to including the Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Unit (YPG) forces into the training. Ankara is not keen on the idea of training YPG militants, as it sees the group as an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The majority of the arms and ammunition to be given to the militants and the cost of the training are expected to be provided by the U.S.
After specifying all details, American specialists are expected to come to Turkey to give training over close fighting techniques, laser pointing and military equipment sabotage strategies to be used against both the regime and ISIL forces.
The meeting will come after CNN reported on Nov. 12 that U.S. President Barack Obama wants his advisers to review the administration’s Syria policy after determining that it may not be possible to defeat ISIL without removing al-Assad.
Citing senior U.S. officials, the network said Obama’s national security team held four meetings in the past week that were driven by how the administration’s broader Syria strategy fit into its campaign against ISIL.
Turkey has long insisted that only a strategy including the ouster of the Syrian president would be effective in defeating ISIL.