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MIDEAST >Turkey wants ops with US in Syria, no plan yet

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA

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Turkey has proposed a joint military operation against jihadists inside Syria with the Americans and other allied troops, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, although a U.S. official said the offer only involved joint efforts to support non-Kurdish forces and did not include any detailed operation proposals.

“If we join forces, they [the U.S.] have their own special forces and we have our special forces,” Çavuşoğlu was reported as saying by Agence France-Presse on May 30. 

“The subject we are discussing with the Americans is the closure of the Manbij pocket as soon as possible... and the opening of a second front,” he said, referring to a backdoor border route favored by the Islamic State of Iraq the Levant (ISIL) and for smuggling jihadists into and out of Syria. He also said special forces from Turkey and the U.S. would later be backed up by other NATO allies France, Britain and Germany.

Turkey and the United States have long been at odds over the role of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the fight against ISIL. Unlike the U.S. and other EU countries, Turkey considers the PYD as an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terror organization by the U.S. and EU. 


No detailed plan offered by Turkey 

But a U.S. official told the Hürriyet Daily News that Turkey had not offered a detailed plan that would include “a large operation involving significant forces” in line with what Çavuşoğlu described. 

“The Turkish government has not offered a detailed plan along the lines Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu described. A few basic concepts, yes – but nothing that reaches the level of a detailed plan that would be practical and possible to implement quickly,” the official said. 

The basic concepts offered by Turkey are about a “joint work to support local forces other than the YPG,” the official said, referring to the People’s Protection Units, the PYD’s armed wing.

The official also said the Turkish government had not proposed a large operation involving significant forces. 


No success in pushing ISIL away from Turkish border

According to the U.S. official, the challenge remains identifying enough Syrians to focus on the anti-ISIL fight, meaning the role the PYD is playing will still be crucial despite Turkish opposition. 

“At the same time, we are quite sensitive to Turkey’s concerns about a YPG presence along the border. That is why we have invested so much effort and resources to efforts to push ISIL out of the area via attacks from the Marea-Azaz corridor. Those efforts have not been as successful as anyone wished. So now we have to look at other options. Not by preference, but by necessity,” the official said. 


Delay in HİMARS deployment 

Another important issue is Turkey’s complaints about the insufficient support it has received from allies in stopping ISIL rockets from hitting Kilis and other border towns. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested that Turkey had been abandoned in the face of growing ISIL attacks from Syria. In response to this point, the official said: “We have continued to provide substantial support and forces to identify and destroy ISIL rocket launchers. So it is inaccurate, at best, to suggest Turkey is not receiving support.”

Çavuşoğlu also criticized the U.S. for delaying the deployment of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) along the border, saying: “The United States is unfortunately not keeping its promise. We are completely ready. Not us, but the U.S. is responsible for the delay.” The system will be ready in August instead of May, he added. 

The U.S. official admitted the delay in the deployment of the system but highlighted security threats posed by ISIL inside Turkey. “It has taken longer than any of us would like. The delay is due to need for additional security measures in the wake of attacks and plots by ISIL inside Turkey, which require some additional security improvements. It is proceeding well now,” said the official.

May/31/2016

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