The Turkish government has consented to a U.S. request to position military aircraft on a Turkish airbase on their soil to conduct airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Syria.
Long hesitant to join the push against ISIS, Turkey has faced a flurry of ISIS attacks and, largely because of ISIS gains in Syria, has faced an influx of refugees seeking refuge from hostilities in the region. The Turkish Air Force conducted its first airstrikes against ISIS positions inside Syria early Friday morning.
Despite a reluctance to commit earnestly, the Turkish government has sanctioned the American presence as a result of increased pressure from Washington and repeated infringements on Turkish military positions by ISIS terrorists. One senior Obama Administration referred to Istanbul’s acceptance of U.S. warplanes on Turkish territory as a “game changer.”
“(The United States and Turkey) have decided to further deepen our cooperation in the fight against ISIL,” the State Department’s spokesman, John Kirby, said in a statement. “Due to operational security I don’t have further details to share at this time.”
The Turkish government has slowly heightened its application of might against ISIS in recent weeks, including the arrest of suspected ISIS associates operating inside Turkey. Motivated by an increase of ISIS activity in northern Syria, as ISIS drew near the Turkish frontier, ISIS attacks on Turkish border outposts increased and include a recent terror attack by a suspected ISIS sympathizer on a Turkish cultural center which killed 32 people.
“The terrorist organization represents a national security threat to Turkey, and we are working closely with our allies, including the United States, to combat terrorism,” said a senior official in the prime minister’s (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) office. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of government protocol restrictions, also emphasized that Turkey had not changed its position regarding Mr. Assad in Syria.
Istanbul’s belated acknowledgment aside, Turkey can prove to be a useful asset in the destruction of ISIS. In anticipation of an offensive by a U.S.-trained Iraqi force against ISIS, Turkey will be doubly useful.
[CNN] [New York Times] [Washington Post]