Turkey’s top soldier inspects troops on Syrian border as gov't signals joining anti-ISIL bid
Turkish soldiers stand as Syrian refugees wait for permission to enter Turkey at the Yumurtalık border crossing near Suruç, Sept. 24. AP Photo / Burhan Özbilici
Turkey’s land forces commander inspected troops along the Syrian border on Sept. 24, as the Turkish government signaled a policy change in actively joining the international coalition led by the United States against the jihadist threat in Iraq and Syria.
Land Forces Commander Gen. Hulusi Akar visited Turkey’s military facilities and troops deployed along the Syrian border, where he was briefed by officers in the field.
Turkey boosted its military presence along the Syrian border to deal with refugee influx in recent years and with the potential Syrian offensive last year. There are also reports that the army has intensified its military mobility in the region after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked the Syrian Kurds in the Kobane region bordering Turkey.
The development came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly meeting, hinted that Turkey could actively support the U.S.-led aerial campaign against ISIL targets in Syria.
Talking to journalists in Ankara, meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan stressed that “military cooperation” was a wide definition that could have many different meanings.
“Asking whether Turkey will fire a bullet is one thing; asking whether it will engage in a military campaign is another thing. Militarily, you can provide human intelligence or visual intelligence. You can supply with logistics. You can take part in military campaign through various means,” Akdoğan said.
Recalling that U.S. officials wanted to see Turkey playing a central role in the fight against the ISIL, Akdoğan underlined that Turkey was geographically the closest country to the threat and it is already embroiled in the issue. The deputy prime minister said victory against ISIL can only be claimed by ground troops, hinting that the Free Syrian Army is the best option for this but it has not been provided with adequate weapons to fight against both the Bashar al-Assad regime and the ISIL.
“With whom you are planning to ally in the region? What is your objective? That’s why Turkey wants to see a broader Syrian policy,” he said.
Akdoğan stressed that Turkey’s level of participation in the coalition will be evaluated in the Cabinet and other state institutions. Erdoğan had said earlier that Turkey will make its decision after his return to Ankara next week.