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US Strikes IS Fighters in Syria From Turkey

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wait for a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, August 5, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wait for a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, August 5, 2015.

The Pentagon says U.S. forces in Turkey have carried out their first strike against Islamic State fighters in Syria.

U.S. military officials said the first cross-border strike from Turkey was carried out by an unmanned drone aircraft Wednesday — the same day that American drones and other warplanes began arriving at an air base in southern Turkey.

Turkey and the United States are planning joint military action to clear IS militants from an area of Syria near the Turkish border.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced the joint action, saying he anticipates "an extensive battle" against Islamic State extremists would reduce the threat IS poses to moderate opposition forces fighting in Syria's civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Cavusoglu discussed the situation around Syria during a meeting Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, where both were attending an Asia regional summit.

Kerry, Lavrov talk

Kerry also met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, who was quoted as saying Islamic State is the "common threat" for everyone in the region. However, Lavrov said there has been no joint approach on fighting the Islamic militants because of what he called a "standoff" among the various forces in Syria, including rebel factions.

Lavrov and Kerry agreed that U.S. and Russian officials would continue to meet about dealing with IS.

Moscow is a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has been trying to forge a regional alliance against the militants. Washington has backed moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Assad government.

"We all agree that Islamic State is the common threat, common evil," Lavrov said in Kuala Lumpur during an interview with Russian state television. "We agree that we need to join efforts to fight this
phenomenon as soon and as effectively as possible.

"For now we don't have a joint approach on how specifically we can do it, given the standoff between various players on the ground, including armed units of the Syrian opposition."

Incirlik air base

Turkey agreed last month to let U.S. forces use the Incirlik air base near Turkey's southern border with Syria.

Officials have described the plan as an effort to create an "Islamic State-free zone" stretching about 100 kilometers in length in northern Syria. It would not include a no-fly zone in the region, despite longstanding demands by the Turkish government for one.

The U.S. has been leading a coalition of countries conducting airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria since September of last year.

Shared border

Turkey shares an 800-kilometer (500-mile) border with Syria, and a section of its southern frontier abuts directly with territory controlled by the Islamic State group.

Officials have described the plan as an effort to create an "Islamic State-free zone" stretching about 100 kilometers in length in northern Syria. It would not include a no-fly zone in the region, despite longstanding demands by the Turkish government for one.

Diplomats familiar with the plans said that cutting off the Islamic State group's access to the border, over which foreign fighters and supplies have flowed, could be a game changer.

But there are challenges.

Washington said Tuesday it had indications some of the rebels trained by its military were captured by fighters from al-Qaida's Syria wing, Nusra Front. The group, thought to number less than 60, only deployed to the battlefield in recent weeks.

The U.S. has been leading a coalition of countries conducting airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria since September of last year.

Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.

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