Anti-ISIL coalition focusing on sealing Turkish border: US envoy
AFP photoThe United States’ envoy to the coalition it leads against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Brett McGurk, said Dec. 9 that its priority was to seal the last strip of border between Turkey and territory held by the ultra-hardline group in Syria.
The U.S. and Turkey have for months been talking of a joint operation to clear ISIL from the remaining part of the frontier but there has been no sign of progress.
“We are increasing our pressure there,” said McGurk, without elaborating, according to Reuters.
The aim is to deprive ISIL of a smuggling route that has swollen its ranks with foreign fighters and filled its coffers with illicit trade.
McGurk’s remarks come one day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated his claim that safe zones free of terror needed to be rapidly implemented.
“Now, finding a reasonable, logical and sustainable solution for [the Syrian] issue under the light of history and facts has become a moral obligation for the international community. In this regard, we insist on rapid implementation of our proposals to create safe zones free of terror and a train-and-equip program for moderate opposition,” Erdoğan said on Dec. 8.
McGurk, who was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama in October, said that only 30 percent of air strikes conducted by Russia in Syria targeted Islamic State and the rest hit “other armed groups.”
“Our air campaign in Syria, we think it’s very effective and we have the data to back that up. The Russian air campaign has different objectives quite frankly,” he said at a briefing for the media in Baghdad.
Russia launched air strikes in Syria at the end of September in support of its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, with the stated aim of hitting ISIL.