News / Middle East

    US, Turkey Poised for Joint Anti-ISIS Operation, Despite Differences

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama chat during a session of the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015.
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama chat during a session of the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015.
    Dorian JonesKasim Cindemir

    Turkey and the United States say forces are poised to launch a major joint military operation aimed at closing a 98-kilometer strip of the Turkey-Syria border used by Islamic State (IS) militants.

    “We have certain plans to put an end to the control that Islamic State is still exercising on a zone of our frontier,” Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu told the Anatolia News Agency, adding that the military operation will be intense. “You will see this in the days to come.”

    U.S. ambassador to Turkey John Bass tells VOA that Ankara and Washington are increasing cooperation to stop the militants from shuttling goods and people across the border.

    The move comes in the wake of blistering domestic criticism over Ankara's handling of IS, which, some analysts say, flourished along the border partly because of the ruling AK party's Islamist sympathies and hopes that IS militants would help oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    “There is passive support by the government and the security forces of Turkey for IS,” Michael Rubin, a Turkey analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, told VOA.

    Ankara only recently allowed coalition planes on Turkish soil after IS unleashed its brutal terror across the region, including attacks inside Turkey.

    Some have even suspected the Turkish government of cooperating with IS, making allegations that range from weapons transfers to logistical support to financial assistance and the provision of medical services. The Cumhuriyet daily this week published stories that alleged Turkish Intelligence was working hand-in-hand with IS. A former IS spy chief told the paper that during the siege of the Syrian city of Kobani last year, Turkish Intelligence served McDonald's hamburgers to IS fighters brought in from Turkey.

    Some analysts say the pending border operation could help silence some of the criticism.

    "There has been indeed quite a bit of criticism of Turkey’s behavior, of Turkey acting more cautious than what its Western partners wanted in the fight against IS,” said Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels.

    “Turkey was for some time in a non-aggression pact with IS, but if crackdowns on IS continue that would mean Turkey is moving into combat stage with the group,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish-American political scientist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

    Turkey's armed forces have almost exclusively targeted the Kurdish PKK rebel group and the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia group. While the YPG is working with U.S. forces against IS, Turkey accuses it of being affiliated with the PKK.  

    Meanwhile, Washington and Ankara continue to disagree over some specific logistics on how retake IS-controlled areas in Syria.

    Erdogan has been pressing for the creation of a safe area, protected by a no-fly zone. This week, however, U.S. President Barack Obama said that would be counterproductive.

    Cumhuriyet political columnist Semih Idiz says even if Ankara can't enforce a no-fly zone, it may be seeking the next best thing: a militarily stabilized frontier that allows for routine ground operations by elite forces.

    "You clear a certain area, and have crack teams [military special forces] going in there to do jobs and coming out,” Idiz said. “That is the kind of ground involvement that I expect will take place in northern Syria and that Turkey will participate in. So there might be a region that is protected with lightning strikes and whatever."

    Observers warn any deployment of Turkish forces into Syria runs the risk of a confrontation with Syrian Kurdish fighters. They also say that the outcome of the war against IS will depend on how successful Washington is in balancing the conflicting demands of Syrian Kurds and Ankara.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: bitter truth
    November 21, 2015 9:51 AM
    the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the likes of Osama bin Laden would not have existed if the US didn’t actively promote ideology-driven thugs to fight its Cold War against Russia. "Iraq would not be such a dangerous place if the US had not brought down Saddam Hussein for no reason at all."

    by: Kamran Habib from: Pakistan
    November 21, 2015 4:22 AM
    How dirty Turkey is as it continues to harbour and support the ISIS for its own benefit. Without the support of Turkey the ISIS would have been defeated long ago. Turkey is a two-faced country.

    by: Anonymous
    November 21, 2015 3:47 AM
    mere airstrikes alone will not defeat ISIS. which countries are supplying deadly weapons to ISIS? Which countries are financing ISIS in Iraq and Syria? America has done nothing to close and destroy existing supply lines and financial lines to ISIS? first of all, who are buying oil from ISIS? unfortunately, nobody talks about this. It is time to find them all and hold them responsible for crimes committed by ISIS. Because, without active outside support ISIS can not exist in Iraq and Syria. It is time to find out that outside support and destroy that outside support. destroying that outside support is essential to defeat ISIS. Business men who buy oil from ISIS are also responsible for the crimes committed by ISIS. They must be found and punished.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    November 20, 2015 11:50 PM
    It is high time for people in this world know who are behind and are the real supporters of the ISIS. They are Turkey, Quatar, Saudi Arabia. To defeat the ISIS, we must get rid of those terrorist sponsors.
    If Turkey tries to hinder russian attacks against those man like animals, Turkey will receive grave consequences.

    by: Davut
    November 20, 2015 7:18 PM
    This is just a cover to keep a supply route open for ISIS from Turkey.

    by: Anonymous
    November 20, 2015 5:09 PM
    The truth:

    This border section, is a 98 kilometer strip that lays between two Kurdish regions, Afrin and Jarabulus.

    Jarabulus is on the banks of Euphrates river close to the border of Turkey in Syria.

    The Kurds got rid of ISIS and AQ on the rest of the borders of Iraq and Syria with Turkey.

    This small section is the only remaining border crossing that ISIS and AQ still hold, and Turkey is able to provide logistics, weaponry and allow ISIS and AQ to receive fresh militants and also have the wounded ones transferred to Turkey for medical treatment.

    What Turkey wants is to NOT LET the Kurds clean up ISIS and AQ from this border strip, so Turkey can still support ISIS and AQ.

    The military operation in discussion is not for cleaning ISIS and AQ, it's actually for securing them from any harm and guaranteeing that Turkey can still support ISIS and AQ.

    It's not hard to understand that Turkey = ISIS
    In Response

    by: ezra pound
    December 17, 2015 2:24 PM
    Bingo! Give this man/woman a prize. I couldn't have put it better myself.

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