Only Syrian opposition and Peshmerga can save Kobane: Turkish PM
ANKARA - Reuters
A picture taken from the Turkish border near the southeastern village of Mürşitpınar shows smoke billowing after a jet fighter hit Kobane on Oct. 28. AFP PhotoTurkey cannot be expected to send troops to defend the besieged Syrian border town of Kobane and only Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Syria's own moderate opposition can save it, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.
U.S. warplanes have been bombing Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions near Kobane for weeks, but air strikes alone will not be enough to repel the insurgents, Davutoğlu said.
"Saving Kobane, retaking Kobane and some areas around Kobane from ISIL, there's a need for a military operation," he said in an interview with the BBC broadcast on Oct. 28.
But he made clear neither Turkey nor Western allies would commit troops. "If they [international coalition] don't want to send their ground troops, how can they expect Turkey to send Turkish ground troops with the same risks on our border?" Davutoğlu said.
Kobane, on Turkey's southeastern border, has been encircled by ISIL fighters for more than a month, and the battle to save it has become a test of the U.S.-led coalition's strategy for halting the radical Sunni Muslim group's advance.
Turkey last week agreed to let Peshmerga forces from Iraq cross its territory to reach Kobane as its preferred alternative to U.S. planes air-dropping weapons to Kurdish fighters in the town.
On Oct. 27 a Turkish official denied accusations from a Syrian Kurdish leader that Ankara was stalling on the deal, saying the Peshmerga could cross "as soon as they are ready."
"The only way to help Kobane since other countries don't want to use ground troops, is sending some peace oriented or moderate troops to Kobane. What are they? Peshmerga ... and Free Syrian Army [Syrian opposition forces]," Davutoğlu said.
No coalition allies have publicly called on Turkey to intervene militarily but images of Turkish troops standing by as ISIL advanced just across the border have drawn criticism.
Davutoğlu renewed calls on the United States to train and arm fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose coalition of groups who have been battling Assad and who have long been supported by Turkey.
"Equip and train the Free Syrian Army so that if ISIL leaves, the regime should not come, so that if ISIL leaves, PKK terrorists should not come," he said. "We will help any forces, any coalition, through air bases [within Turkey] or through other means if we have a common understanding to have a new pluralistic, democratic Syria."
Washington has committed to arming the Syrian opposition to fight Islamic State, but officials remain concerned about identifying effective, moderate groups in the increasingly bloody and radicalized conflict.