Ankara, Washington negotiating ahead of ISIS offensive in Mosul
by Sena Alkan
ISTANBULMar 12, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Sena Alkan
Mar 12, 2015 12:00 am
CENTCOM Commander Austin was in Ankara yesterday to hold talks on a possible Mosul offensive this summer as experts say Turkey's support for the offensive will include logistics and intelligence sharing
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Lloyd Austin arrived in Turkey yesterday to hold talks on the regional turmoil weeks after officials from Ankara and Washington made an agreement to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the region. As part of the anti-ISIS coalition's efforts to wipe ISIS out from Mosul, Iraq, Austin is expected to hold talks with Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel. The main agenda of the visit is the U.S. and Iraq's possible Mosul operation that is expected to be held by this summer, according to some sources.
As the world waits for an offensive to retake Mosul, Turkey's possible role in the operation has come under the spotlight with Austin's visit.
In his comments to Daily Sabah, former member of the Turkish Armed Forces and security expert, Mete Yarar, said that the main agenda of Austin's visit is the Mosul operation and Turkey's air bases that the U.S. seeks to use during the offensive. Yarar said that instead of being actively involved in the offensive, Turkey looks to be undertaking the task of facilitator in the operation with logistics and intelligence-sharing support.
"The U.S. officials are likely to ask to use Turkey's air bases, including the İncirlik air base, but more importantly [the eastern province of] Batman base that has critical significance due to its proximity to Mosul," Yarar said.
Metin Gürcan, a former special forces major in Mosul and Kirkuk and a security policies researcher at Bilkent University, said on his Twitter account: "The summary of Austin's visit: The U.S. officials pushed us to support Mosul offensive, we pushed the U.S. to establish order [in the region] after the Mosul operation."
Gürcan added that a bargain has been ongoing between Turkish and American officials as the U.S. wants to use the İncirlik base and stresses border security while Turkey touched on the actors to be included in the Mosul when the province enters into the process of post-ISIS life.
Asked about Austin's visit, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz yesterday told reporters: "We openly remarked on our support for the Iraqi army and peshmerga forces in the face of ISIS and training and equipping, intelligence and logistical support for Sunnis. We started our support with [training and equipping] peshmerga forces, and it will continue."
The exiled governor of Mosul, Atheel al-Nujaifi claimed on March 1 that Turkey will take part in the offensive and it has agreed to send weapons and supplies to recapture Mosul. Referring to these claims, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said that when the time comes, Turkey would make the necessary assessments along with the nation's interests and fulfill its responsibilities that come with being a member of the coalition against the group.
The details of the training and equipping program signed between Ankara and Washington are also among the topics to be discussed during Austin's visit. On February 19, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and the U.S. ambassador to Ankara John Bass inked a deal to train and equip Syrian opposition forces of which the aim is to achieve a political transformation in the war-torn country on the basis of the Geneva Communique. The Syrian fighters trained in the joint program are expected to fight both ISIS and the regime of Syrian Bashar Assad. According to Yılmaz's statement, the Syrian opposition will be trained and equipped in the Turkish province of Kırıkkale, located in central Anatolia.
According to Austin, U.S. airstrikes have killed more than 8,500 ISIS militants and eliminated the group's primary source of revenue from oil refineries since the bombing campaign that began in August.
Calling for a comprehensive strategy in the fight against ISIS to stabilize Iraq and Syria, Ankara, along with France, has called on the anti-ISIS coalition not to turn a blind eye to the situation in Aleppo and underscored that the Assad regime should be ousted for the sake of the region's stability.