US urges Turkey to do more in anti-ISIL fight, seal Syrian border
AA photoU.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter urged Turkey on Dec. 15 to do more to help destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), adding that Turkey’s most significant contribution would be sealing its border with Syria.
Speaking to reporters while traveling to Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana, Carter said Ankara needed to better control its border with Syria, particularly a 98-kilometer stretch believed to be used by ISIL for illicit trade and shuttling foreign fighters back and forth.
“Turkey has an enormous role to play,” Reuters quoted Carter as saying on Dec. 15, as he kicked off a tour of the Middle East that aims to drum up regional support for the military campaign.
“We appreciate what they’re doing. We want them to do more,” Carter said on his first trip to İncirlik as defense secretary.
That includes Turkish forces joining “in the air and the ground as appropriate,” Carter said. “The single most important contribution that their region makes necessary is the control of their own border.”
The İncirlik Air Base has grown more important in the U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes against ISIL, with 59 U.S., Turkish, Qatari and German aircraft conducting refueling, intelligence and strike missions now operating out of the base, up from about 15 from all coalition countries at the beginning of September, U.S. officials said.
On Dec. 14, speaking after a meeting of the U.S. National Security Council at the Pentagon, President Barack Obama said Carter’s trip to the region aimed to secure greater military contributions from allies in the campaign against ISIL.
Biden, Davutoğlu discuss ISIL, Iraq over phone
On the same day, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spoke over the phone regarding the fight against ISIL and the latest developments in Iraq after tensions increased between Turkey and Iraq following Turkish troops’ deployment to Iraqi soil over a week ago.
In his talk with Davutoğlu, Biden reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to close cooperation with Iraq and Turkey in the fight against ISIL, said a statement released by the White House.
Biden has welcomed the partial withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Bashiqa Camp near ISIL-held city of Mosul, saying it was “an important step to de-escalate recent tensions.” Biden urged Turkey to continue trying to cooperate with Baghdad.
A number of Turkish troops were transferred to a region under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a convoy that included tanks from the Bashiqa Camp near Mosul on Dec. 14, Turkish sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Meanwhile, the state-run Anadolu Agency cited prime ministry sources as saying the request for the call had come from the U.S., adding that the two also discussed the cooperation in the fight against ISIL.
Davutoğlu and Biden have also agreed to hold talks once again according to developments in the coming days, Anadolu Agency reported.
Iraqi gov’t ‘should secure Mosul, border with Turkey’
On Dec. 15, before departing on a trip to Bulgaria, Davutoğlu said that if the Iraqi administration ensured the security of Mosul and the Turkish-Iraqi border, then there would be no need for Turkish troops in the neighboring country.
“But until that day, Turkey will take own its measures as part of its national security. Nobody should seek out a negative meaning,” Davutoğlu said in Ankara.
Turkey’s presence at the Bashiqa Camp near Mosul does not pose a threat to Iraq, he added.
Elaborating on Turkish troops’ withdrawal from Bashiqa on Dec. 14, the prime minister described the move of the soldiers as a “military arrangement” and added that Ankara would continue the arrangements if necessary.
“We have shifted some forces due to the threat posed to our trainers based on intelligence. We have succeeded in getting a grip on the situation,” he said.