Turkey, US seek to intensify anti-ISIL fight
Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
REUTERS photoIn the light of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Turkey, the two allies will intensify their dialogue on how to best continue the joint fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as efforts to seal the final part of the Turkish-Syrian border.
One of the most important outcomes of Biden’s talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was the need to further boost efforts to destroy ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, as the American vice president vowed both countries were on the same page to do more against the jihadist threat.
In this regard, Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, the commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command and the Combined Force Air Component, is scheduled to pay a visit to Ankara and southeastern Diyarbakır on Feb. 1 and 2 to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Air Forces Commander Gen. Abidin Ünal.
His visit to Diyarbakır, home of one of largest Turkish air bases in the region, will also provide an opportunity to discuss the efficient use of the base in the future, which is not actively used in the anti-ISIL aerial campaign but has been kept prepared for search and rescue and other secondary operations.
Sources indicated more delegations will visit in due course for further coordination of the fight against ISIL, particularly for a much-anticipated joint operation to clear the Mare-Jarablus line of ISIL terrorists.
In parallel to this, Turkey and the U.S. have been speaking more concretely about how to seal the 100-kilometer strip of the Turkish-Syrian border in order to stop ISIL from using the border section as a supply line for logistical support. In line with the discussions, the U.S. will provide technical and infrastructural assistance to Turkey to better monitor and protect its border.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is expected to arrive in Turkey on Feb. 29 for a three-day visit to discuss how this assistance could be provided and implemented on the border.
More efficient struggle against ISIL: FM
At a press conference with a visiting high-level EU delegation, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu underlined the need for a “more efficient” struggle against ISIL with the United States, both in Iraq and Syria.
Responding to a question on dialogue between Ankara and Washington on resolving the problem that emerged over the Bashiqa military camp, Çavuşoğlu reiterated the importance of “Iraq’s territorial integrity.”
“DAESH controls 30 percent of [Iraqi] territory. How will we resolve this? We discussed with Biden how we can coordinate our forces there,” he said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to ISIL.
Çavuşoğlu stressed that the Bashiqa camp is a military facility where all groups in the international coalition fighting ISIL are represented.
“What we are discussing now is how best we can struggle against ISIL. Our work to this end will continue. We should pursue a more efficient struggle together in Iraq and Syria,” he said.