2014-10-28

Turkey steps up involvement in anti-ISIL coalition

Ankara agrees to provide training and safe passage for anti-ISIL forces.

By Zeynep Cermen for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 28/10/14

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Turkey is providing more active support to the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), pledging to help train thousands of Syrian opposition fighters and to allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces access to the besieged town of Kobane through Turkish territory.

  • A Turkish armoured vehicle patrols the border in Suruc, Sanliurfa. [AFP]

    A Turkish armoured vehicle patrols the border in Suruc, Sanliurfa. [AFP]

  • Men carry a coffin at a cemetery in Suruc on October 23rd during the funeral of three Kurdish fighters who died in clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in neighbouring Syria. [AFP]

    Men carry a coffin at a cemetery in Suruc on October 23rd during the funeral of three Kurdish fighters who died in clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in neighbouring Syria. [AFP]

Turkey will train 2,000 moderate Syrian fighters to bolster coalition airstrikes against ISIL, according to media reports. Though allied forces are still finalising details of the plan, analysts expect fighters to be trained in groups by Turkey and other coalition member states, including the US.

Can Kasapoglu, security analyst at the Istanbul-based think-tank EDAM, said coalition forces will co-operate to vet the fighters and ensure the plan is safely implemented.

"It will be very important to ensure that there is no infiltration by ISIL or other organisations," he told SES Türkiye. "It is therefore crucial that military units carry out intensive intelligence co-operation on this point."

Kasapoglu added that the training would likely cover urban warfare, unconventional warfare, sabotage and anti-tank weapons training, bolstering the ability of moderate Syrian Arab fighters to confront ISIL.

"Most probably the training will target groups which have fought under the Free Syrian Army banner, since their capabilities lag behind those of radical Salafist organisations. Increasing the military performance of groups backed by Turkey will give Turkey more influence in the field," he said, adding that the professionalised fighters would also strengthen security along Turkey's southern border.

Ankara has also agreed to let Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces pass through Turkey to help Syrian Kurdish fighters break an ISIL siege on the town of Kobane, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters during a recent trip to Europe. The announcement came after coalition forces airdropped weapons and medical supplies to Syrian Kurdish forces fighting the terrorist group in Kobane.

In a statement to the Anatolian Agency, Iraqi Turkmen Front deputy Aydin Maruf thanked Turkey for facilitating the movement of Kurdish forces.

"With Turkey's support, peshmerga forces are going to Syria," Maruf said. "We're sending them in accordance with requests from our people."

Highlighting the danger ISIL poses to regional security, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had urged Ankara to support coalition efforts.

"ISIL has been posing threats against Iraqi people, Syrians, countries in the region and also against NATO," he said on a recent visit to Ankara. "NATO has been playing its own part. The establishment of Patriot missiles strengthens the defence here. It strengthens the Turkish people."

Oytun Orhan, analyst at the Ankara-based Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, agreed that ISIL threatens Turkey's security.

"Lately ISIL announced that it has sleeper cells inside Turkey," Orhan told SES Türkiye. "It is possible that Turkey will face a terrorist attack within its border."

Ali Serdar Erdurmaz, a retired soldier and professor at Hasan Kalyoncu University, said coalition airstrikes have helped disrupt ISIL's operations, adding that a ground operation by international forces is not currently needed.

"The enemy at the other side possesses heavy weapons like artillery. Furthermore, the enemy consists of people who formatted their brain to go to heaven," he told SES Türkiye, adding that airstrikes are the best solution since ISIL does not have an air force or air defence systems.

"With today's sophisticated technology, the air operations make it is possible to pre-determine the targets and to hit the targets with one or two metres of errors," Erdurmaz said.

How do you think Turkey should support the anti-ISIL coalition? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

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