Turkey, US cooperated in al-Baghdadi killing: Turkish defense chief
The former ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed with military and intelligence cooperation between Turkey and the U.S., the Turkish defense minister has said, noting that he did not know Baghdadi was in Syria’s Idlib before the operation.
“We had some information military-to-military before the operation. At the same time, the military people coordinated among them. We wanted our troops not to cause any conflict,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in an interview with CNN International on Nov. 7.
The chain of command warned their troops on the ground, he added. “On the other hand, between our intel agencies there is very close cooperation, and I believe they cooperated and coordinated with the information as well,” the minister stated.
Asked if the U.S. did not give all the details to Turkey about the operation about Baghdadi and if Turkey knew the whereabouts of the ISIL leader, Akar said, “Between the intel agencies of Turkey and the U.S. there is very close cooperation. I believe that they cooperated and coordinated with the information as well.”
“But before the operation, at least [I] did not know that,” he said with regards to Baghdadi’s whereabouts.
Baghdadi, who was born in Iraq, blew himself up during an Oct. 26 raid by U.S. forces in Idlib.
Asked about possible affiliations of the Syrian Natural Army - backed by the Turkish Armed forces in the operation in northern Syria- with any jihadist group such as ISIL or al-Qaeda, the minister said, “There is no linkage between the Syrian National Army and any other terrorist organizations. They are entirely Syrian people, they are fighting for their independence, for their territory, for their homes.”
Asked if Turkey is moving away from NATO and the West after a rapprochement with Russia on the issue of Syria, Akar said Turkey is in the middle of NATO and fulfilling all it is responsibilities.
“But necessary for the problems in northern Syria, there are problems in the region and in order to resolve them, in order to take some precautions against them we are making some coordination, cooperation with some nations and at the same time we are doing so with the Russians,” he stated.
Ankara sees the YPG as the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK.
Akar said the YPG/PKK terrorists did not withdraw from northern Syria in violation of deals with the U.S. and Russia.
“Both sides, the U.S. and the Russian sides, agree to remove the YPG from those areas,” the minister said. “But still there are lots of violations committed by the YPG/PKK terrorists. So, we are fighting against them.”
Turkey launched “Operation Peace Spring” on Oct. 9 to eliminate terrorists from northeastern Syria and create a safe zone along the border, thereby paving the way for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.
Ankara agreed with Washington on Oct. 17 to pause its operation to allow YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the planned safe zone.
On Oct. 22, Turkey also reached an agreement with Russia on a 10-point plan to force the YPG/PKK group to withdraw from the planned terror-free zone.
Underlining the necessity of a safe zone in northern Syria to bring back refugees, mostly living in Turkey, to their homelands safely and voluntarily, Akar said Turkey needs financial support to build a livable place.
Asked whether Idlib has turned into a safe haven for ISIL following the operation, Akar emphasized, “It’s not true, it’s impossible.”
“We are there, we are fighting in every sense against all terrorist organizations and terrorist individuals,” he said.
The minister added that Turkey will continue to fight ISIL until the end.