Turkey to resume airstrikes against Islamic State as part of coalition
August 25, 2015
WASHINGTON — Turkish warplanes will soon join the American-led effort to destroy the Islamic State, as the two nations have finalized “technical details” to include Turkish aircraft in the fight against the militant group, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
Turkey in late July began conducting independent airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria – and against the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq – but it agreed in mid-August to halt its own airstrikes to ensure coalition and Turkish aircraft were “conducting safe air operations,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Pat Ryder said at the time.
The agreement announced Tuesday adds Turkish planes to the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve air tasking order, which allows coalition commanders to track, coordinate and deconflict all air operations, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. Turkish planes could be inserted into the rotation in the coming days.
“The fact that Turkey is now going to be flying alongside other coalition aircraft is a significant step forward, (and) one we’ve been waiting for,” he said.
Last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter called for Turkey to “do more” in the fight against the Islamic State, including better policing the country’s borders with Iraq and Syria, where he said Islamist militants and supplies regularly cross.
“It’s overdue, because it’s a year into the campaign,” Carter said Thursday. “But (Turkey is) indicating some considerable effort now, including … allowing us to use their airfields. That’s important, but it’s not enough.”
Turkey, a NATO ally, reluctantly agreed about a month ago to open Incirlik Air Base in the country’s south to armed U.S. drones and fighter jets, which placed U.S. air power closer to the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and northern Iraq. The U.S. has since placed F-16s and armed drones at the base, which have conducted airstrikes against the Islamic State.
The Pentagon has indicated it would like the use of a second Turkish air base to conduct search and rescue operations. Those and other broad discussions continue with the Turkish government “to evaluate options on the most effective needs on countering ISIL, including along (Turkey’s) borders in a manner that promotes Turkey’s security and regional stability,” said Cook, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
“Our cooperation with the Turks and the expansion of that cooperation remains a work in progress at this point,” he said Tuesday.