Turkey, US agree on clear and hold plan against ISIL

Turkey, US agree on clear and hold plan against ISIL

Deniz Zeyrek - ANKARA
Turkey, US agree on clear and hold plan against ISIL

Credit: U.S. Navy

Turkey and the United States have agreed to clear an area between two Syrian towns by the Turkish border of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) before turning the area over to the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

According to the details of the agreement seen by daily Hürriyet, the two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding and have been working on a military operation plan other than one being implemented under the anti-ISIL coalition led by the U.S.

As part of the existing plan, U.S. jets departing from the İncirlik military base close to the border have been hitting ISIL targets. 

Under the new plan, Turkish fighter jets will join the air strikes as part of the clearing phase between Syria’s Jarablus and Marea. The two countries will also back local opposition forces on the ground for this phase.

The plan also includes sending volunteer refugees in Turkey to camps that will be built in the zone once it is cleared of ISIL forces.

Both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, signed the MoU, which avoids mention of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose military arm, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have been also fighting against ISIL. However, the two countries have verbally agreed not to permit the PYD to pass the western side of the River Euphrates and prevent the group and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces from filling the area emptied by ISIL. 

Turkey declared to the U.S. that it would hit the PYD if it passes the line drawn by the river, even if it does not target Turkey. 

Ankara dislikes the PYD due to its ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has intensified retaliatory attacks on Turkish military targets inside the country, resulting in a loss of life on both sides. 

The U.S. has warned the PYD about Turkey’s stance on the red line. 

The practical details of the MoU will be included in an operation plan between the militaries of the two countries. 

The plan will also include U.S. aircraft that will be located in three other provinces, Batman, Diyarbakır and Malatya, in addition to İncirlik in the southern province of Adana.  

Officials have already announced that 26 U.S. Air Force jets from the 480th Fleet, four gun-carrying unmanned aerial vehicles and some surveillance jets will be placed in Turkey. 

Within the scope of the plan, an air defense system with a capacity larger than the U.S.’s Patriots, which are scheduled to be removed from Turkey, and Germany’s Patriots, which have already been removed, is expected to be established at the bases mentioned above.  

Meanwhile, Hürriyet has learned that the U.S. decision to remove Patriots from Turkey emerged during bargaining between Washington and Ankara for the opening of the İncirlik base to U.S.-led strikes against ISIL. Sources said the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), one of NATO’s two strategic commanders, has reported that Syria’s missile systems do not require a Patriot defense. 

Officials told Hürriyet that former Turkish army chief Necdet Özel, who handed over control of the Armed Forces to Gen. Hulusi Akar on Aug. 19, also considered the Patriots unnecessary.