Ashton Carter, the US Defense Secretary, spoke regarding Turkey’s steps against ISIS on Thursday at the Pentagon, saying Ankara could “do more” in the campaign against the militant group.
“We do want Turkey to do more in the fight against ISIL,” Carter told reporters, adding that Turkey “agreed in principle” to join the bombing campaign against ISIS.
Last week, US State Department spokesman John Kirby had said the US requested Turkey to refrain from hitting ISIS “in Syria until Turkey is fully integrated in coalition operations, to ensure safe air operations for the coalition in very dense airspace” and Turkey has accepted it.
“That's only one part of what we need Turkey to do and what Turkey has indicated some willingness to do,” Carter said reiterating the agreement between the two countries.
However, Carter added further US demands saying “We need them also as a neighbor to this conflict zone, as a long-time NATO ally and a responsible member of the anti-ISIL coalition, to control the border, the long border that they have with both Syria and Iraq, more than it has been controlled over the last year."
Turkey has stepped up efforts against militant groups such as ISIS and the outlawed PKK following increasing violent attacks after a suicide bombing on July 20 allegedly carried out by ISIS which killed 34 people in the Suruc district of the southeastern Sanliurfa province.
Following the killing of a Turkish military serviceman due to gunfire from Syria in Turkey’s southern border town of Kilis on Aug. 24, the Turkish Armed Force (TAF) had launched its first air strikes targeting ISIS militants positioned near the Turkish border, using its rights derived from international laws on engagement with national security threats.
Later, Turkey and the US signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) determining allied military planning in order to clear ISIS forces from northern Syria.
Ankara allowed Washington for the utilisation of Incirlik Air Base last month as the parties agreed on the US-led anti-ISIS international campaign in which Turkey pledged to take an active part in the wake of militant offensive towards its southern borders.
Carter mentioned that the US appreciates Turkey's decision to allow US warplanes to fly combat missions out of Turkish air bases, adding that top US leaders are in "active discussions" with Turkey to prevent the flow of ISIS militants crossing its border into Iraq and Syria.
The Turkish government has been alarmed by both ISIS’ moves near the Syrian towns of Azaz and Mare and the enlargement of northern Kurdish enclaves under the control of the PYD along its long border line with Syria.
In early June, Turkish government gave a directive to the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) to take necessary measures along the 110-kilometres long Turkish border line between Jarablus and Azez after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had held several security meetings on Syria in his presidential palace.
Many military vehicles including tanks, air defence systems, armoured combat vehicles, and military personnel have been moved in the Mediterranean province of Kilis across the northern Syrian district of Azez by the 5th Armored Brigade Command.
The recent developments in Syria’s northern areas on the Turkish border raised Ankara’s concerns over both the advancement of ISIS militancy and the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Defense Units’ (YPG) attempts at establishing a “Kurdish corridor” alongside the border.
Also stepping up measures across Turkey, security forces detained about 2,000 and arrested almost 500 suspected members of PKK and ISIS since late July.
Turkey has long been criticised by Western countries over the management of its porous border with Syria. Militants have in the past travelled from Europe to Turkey and then across into Iraq and Syria through Turkey’s borders, raising concern between Turkey and its allies.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has stated several times that allegations of mismanagement were unjust and were part of a “propaganda” campaign intending to paint the country as a supporter of militancy in Iraq and Syria.
Turkey has also accused EU countries of not providing it adequate information and reluctance in intelligence sharing and cooperation concerning Europeans suspected of travelling to Turkey with the aim of joining ISIS.
According to Turkish Ministry of Interior figures Turkey has so far capturad and deported almost 2,000 foreign fighters and denied entry of more than 18,000 foreigners, who were suspected of attempting to enter the country in order to travel into Syria and Iraq for joining ISIS.