Turkey, US should cooperate in liberating Jarabulus

Turkey, US should cooperate in liberating Jarabulus

Turkey lost another 54 of its nationals in yet another bloody terrorist attack late on Aug. 20, as a teenage suicide bomber exploded him or herself during a wedding ceremony in the Şahinbey district of the southern province of Gaziantep. 

All indications point to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as one of its former leaders hinted that the group could target wedding ceremonies in southeastern Anatolia, at which mainly Turkish people of Kurdish origin would be gathered. 

The bomb that was used in Gaziantep was no different from the ones used in the 2015 Ankara and Suruç bombings that killed scores of people. This recent inhuman attack was just another incident in the ISIL-led campaign of violence in Turkey launched in mid-2015. 

ISIL had openly described Turkey as its one of primary targets last year, after the Turkish government decided to actively join the anti-ISIL coalition by opening its İncirlik Air Base and airspace to U.S.-led coalition forces. The deal between Ankara and Washington also envisaged fully sealing the Turkish-Syrian border on the 98-km-long Mare-Jarabulus line and creating an ISIL-free zone. 

This objective was later detailed by the two countries with a comprehensive operation into Jarabulus, which has long been under the control of ISIL militants. This border region had served as one of the main logistics routes for ISIL and its closure had vital significance in the fight against the jihadists. 

However, the Jarabulus operation could not take place, after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on Nov 24, 2015, resulting in the suspension of Turkish military flights over Syrian airspace. Another reason for the delay of the Turkish-American operation was growing disagreement over the role of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as the main ally of the U.S. in the fight against ISIL. 

As a result, around only 15 kilometers of the Mare-Jarabulus line could be closed, while ISIL still controls the rest of it. 

Now it seems that Turkey and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are accelerating their preparations for a strong offensive towards Jarabulus, in a bid to push ISIL from the Turkish border. Turkey has been shelling ISIL positions near the border in a bid to create a safe corridor for FSA members and simultaneously hitting the PYD in northern parts of Manbij to stop their advance towards Jarabulus.  

In a statement to the press, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed that Turkey will lend any kind of support to the soon-to-be-started Jarabulus operation in a bid to fully cleanse the borderl of ISIL. He also recalled that the government had parliamentary authorization to conduct cross-border operations into Syria, hinting that the Turkish military would actively participate to the offensive along with the FSA. 

If it is successful, the Jarabulus operation will play a very important role in the future phases of providing full security to the Syrian border. Despite the fact that Turkey and the U.S. are on different pages on many issues, they should better cooperate in saving Jarabulus from ISIL and therefore dealing an important blow for future Raqqa and Mosul operations against the jihadists.