Turkey urges US to back al-Bab operation

Turkey urges US to back al-Bab operation

Turkey urges US to back al-Bab operation

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Ankara has criticized international coalition forces for not doing enough to support Turkey in its offensive on al-Bab against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), calling especially for U.S. backing for the operation.

“These circles, which always level criticism at Turkey on ISIL, are not giving the necessary support for our struggle against ISIL in Azez, Jarablus, Dabiq and al-Bab. This is unacceptable,” presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told reporters on Dec. 26. 

“We would like to express once more that the international coalition should make a special commitment particularly to provide air support. We are coordinating with the international coalition. It is unacceptable that air support is not provided without a legitimate reason,” he said.

“Regardless of mobilization by [ISIL], Turkey will continue in its determination in this regard, and this operation will be completed,” Kalın said.

Kalın made the comments in reply to media reports that around 700 ISIL suicide bombers had moved from Raqqa to al-Bab. 

In the past week, clashes and operations around al-Bab had gained intensity, he said, emphasizing that the Turkish Armed Forces had showed great sensitivity to avoid civilian casualties.

Some 1,900 square kilometers in northern Syria have been cleared of ISIL as part of the Operation Euphrates Shield, the spokesperson said. 

During the past week, hundreds of ISIL targets have been eliminated, and 226 ISIL militants have been killed, Kalın stated.

200 people from Aleppo arrive in Turkey

Some 44,000 people have been evacuated from Aleppo and taken to Idlib, while Turkey aims to extend a cease-fire to all of Syria, Kalın said, citing an upcoming meeting in Astana where the issue will be discussed. 

So far, approximately 200 people from eastern Aleppo have been brought to Turkey, he added.

The genuine representatives of the Syrian opposition should be there in Astana, which is in addition to the Geneva process, the spokesperson stated.

“The most important issue in the Astana meetings is that the people who will be representing the opposition are composed of real, reliable dissidents. We do not have time to lose,” he said. 

“We have to stop the bloodiest battle of the modern era that has been going on for six years now. In this regard, everyone has to fulfill their responsibilities,” Kalın said.

The lack of coalition support for the al-Bab operation illustrates the strained ties between Ankara and the rest of the world as Turkey and its allies have adopted differing strategies to defeat ISIL in areas the jihadists still control in northern Syria.

The U.S.-led international coalition battling to defeat the ISIL is not backing a drive by Turkish forces and Ankara-backed Syrian rebels to retake the jihadist stronghold of al-Bab in northern Syria, the Pentagon said on Nov. 16.

Ankara’s offensive on the city is not being supported by coalition air strikes because it was “independently” launched by Turkey, said U.S. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition fighting the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.

“That’s a national decision that they have made,” Dorrian said.

Al-Bab, a city of 100,000 about 30 kilometers from the Turkish border, has been a key target for Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies since its campaign called Euphrates Shield Operation began on Aug. 24.

After intensifying its operation in al-Bab, Turkish Armed forces have had difficulties in the ISIL-held city due to hidden explosives, suicide bombers and bad weather conditions. At least 16 Turkish soldiers were killed last week.

500 additional Turkish commandoes sent to al-Bab: Report

Turkey has sent an additional 500 commandoes to Syria’s al-Bab in order to help Turkish troops and Ankara-backed Syria rebels capture the town, while around 1,400 rebels who were evacuated from Aleppo last week also joined the forces, daily Yeni Şafak reported on Dec. 26., adding that the total number of FSA members from Aleppo who would join ranks in al-Bab would reach 2,000. 

An additional 500 Turkish commandoes from the 1st Commando Brigade in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri were sent to al-Bab in order to combat ISIL as part of the Euphrates Shield operation, the daily also said.

A car bomb attack, claimed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), struck a bus full of soldiers who had left the same army post in Kayseri on Dec. 17, killing 14 soldiers.