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US, Turkey Work to Clear Islamic State from Northern Syria


Turkish soldiers patrol near the border with Syria, ouside the village of Elbeyli, east of the town of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, July 24, 2015. Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria early Friday, government offi

The U.S. said Monday it is working with Turkey on an attack plan to clear Islamic State insurgents from northern Syria, a campaign that would escalate Ankara's involvement in the fight against militants in the region.

A U.S. official told news agencies that the goal is to create an "Islamic State-free zone" to "ensure greater security along Turkey's border with Syria." But the official said the joint U.S.-Turkey military operation would not include the imposition of a no-fly zone in the region, a long-standing Turkish demand.

The U.S. fears that creation of a no-fly zone to halt Syrian government air raids in the region would draw American forces further into the four-year fight several groups are waging to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

After months of reluctance, Turkey last week launched attacks on militant targets across its border into Syria after a suicide attack in Turkey killed 32 people and a car bomb two Turkish soldiers.

Ankara also agreed for the first time to let the U.S. use its Incirlik air base for airstrikes on the insurgents, sharply cutting the distance for U.S. fighter jets that had been traveling from Iraqi air fields for attacks on Islamic State targets in northern Syria.

However, Turkey's aerial attack to push Islamic State fighters out of its long boundary with Syria is likely to complicate fighting on the ground, where Syrian Kurds are among the most effective forces battling extremists in Syria and Iraq. But Ankara fears they could boost a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.

NATO meeting

Turkey has called for a special meeting Tuesday with its fellow NATO member states to discuss its security concerns.

NATO said the meeting was requested "in view of the seriousness of the situation after the heinous terrorist attacks in recent days."

The U.S. is backing Turkey's two-pronged air offensive and artillery strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq.

A White House spokesman said Sunday Ankara was within its rights to "take action related to terrorist targets," including when it struck a Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) town overnight Friday in northern Iraq, marking the first offensive against the outlawed Kurdish group there since a peace accord was announced in 2013.