ISIL fight to be discussed at key meeting in S Arabia

ISIL fight to be discussed at key meeting in S Arabia

Uğur Ergan ANKARA
ISIL fight to be discussed at key meeting in S Arabia

A rebel fighter rides through an empty street in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Aleppo has been divided between regime control in the west and rebels in the east. AFP Photo.

A series of critical issues in relation to the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and the training of moderate opponents in Syria will be on the table during a military meeting in Saudi Arabia this week.

Turkish diplomatic and military sources confirmed that Lt. Gen. Erdal Öztürk, the head of the Chief of Staff’s Operation Division, will represent the Turkish side at the meeting, scheduled for Feb. 18-19. It is also possible that the Chief of the General Staff, Gen. Necdet Özel, will join Öztürk if other countries send their top military officials.

Diplomatic sources said the Saudi Arabia meeting would be of importance for Turkey as “the training and deployment of Syrian moderate opposition forces” will be on the table. Coalition members could decide to use force against ISIL, albeit with limits on U.S. combat troops’ involvement.

A U.S.-led coalition battling ISIL extremists in Iraq and Syria is “on the offensive” and will prevail, President Barack Obama said Feb. 11 after asking Congress to back the war effort.

Obama also said the United States “should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East,” but noted that he would be ready to deploy special forces in specific situations.

Assistance by Turkey regarding any special operations against ISIL could also become clear after the meetings. Diplomatic and military sources said a series of military methods and plans would also be discussed to wrest Mosul back from ISIL militants. Another topic will be what military measures can be taken to prevent Europeans and people from neighboring countries joining ISIL.

The U.S. military has made progress in its effort to identify moderate Syrian rebels to train for the fight against ISIL militants and a U.S. training mission could begin this spring, the Pentagon said Jan. 7.

It is expected the training will begin in the coming months under the coordination of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The final decision will most probably be made at the meeting in Saudi Arabia, according to sources.

The Pentagon had announced earlier it would send a total of 400 soldiers to the three countries which will host the training.