Obama’s anti-ISIL team in Ankara for joint fight
AP photoTurkey and the United States have intensified talks to jointly address the situation in northern Syria, in which Islamic jihadists are threatening to remove the Free Syrian Army (FSA) from the region’s most populous areas.
A team of high-level U.S. security officials has arrived in Ankara to launch political and military talks with the Turkish government for the joint fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, in a development following the jihadists’ threat toward the FSA’s positions.
“General [John] Allen is leading the delegation. He will be meeting with senior Turkish political and security officials on the ongoing cooperation to degrade and defeat ISIL,” a source said July 7. Allen is the special coordinator of U.S. President Barack Obama in the fight against ISIL. Apart from Allen, Christine Wormuth, the undersecretary of defense for policy, was also included in the delegation that held talks with Turkish officials.
The general and the delegation met with the undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and other senior officials on July 7 in Ankara. There was no statement after the meeting from either side.
The meeting comes after Turkey reinforced its military presence on the Syrian border in a bid to deter ISIL’s advance on northwestern Syria, which is under the ostensible control of the FSA.
US warplanes hit ISIL targets
Turkey and the U.S. have long been in talks to sort out a deal to allow a joint fight against the ISIL that included the use of Turkish military facilities and airspace by American warplanes. Turkey set the establishment of a security zone and a no-fly zone inside Syria as conditions for allowing its facilities to be used by Washington even though the two sides are on different pages over the priorities of cooperation.
Turkey believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go before the ISIL problem is resolved while Washington thinks the opposite.
However, ISIL’s advance to Turkey’s border has forced the two allies to again discuss the situation. ISIL’s advance was temporarily halted after U.S. jets hit jihadist positions in northern Syria while Turkish troops deployed long-range batteries to the region. U.S. fighters hit ISIL in five separate aerial strikes that were believed to have been conducted upon Turkey’s request.
“A comprehensive agreement can be provided,” a senior official told the media last week. “The use of İncirlik could also be included in this comprehensive picture.”
Along with this cooperation, the two sides have also reviewed joint efforts to stop the infiltration of foreign fighters from Turkey to Syria, as well as the growing refugee problem Turkey is trying to address through its own capabilities.