Turkey allows U.S. and partners to use its bases in ISIS fight

The U.S. national security adviser says Turkey has now agreed to let US led air forces use bases on its territory, in a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
A Turkish army tank manoeuvres as Turkish Kurds watch over the Syrian town of Kobani from atop a hill near Mursitpinar border crossing in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province. Kobani is close to the Turkish border, but Turkey is reluctant to open its border to allow arms to reach the out-gunned Kurds. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Turkey has agreed to let U.S.-led air forces use bases on its territory in a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. national security adviser says.

Turkey until now has been reluctant to provide military support for Kurdish forces fighting the militant group.

"We have not asked for the Turks to send ground forces of their own into Syria," U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on NBC's Meet the Press.

"The Turks have, this just in the last several days, made a commitment that they will in the first instance allow the United States and our partners to use Turkish bases and territory," Rice said Sunday.

A U.S.-led military coalition has been bombing Islamic State fighters who hold swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria, countries involved in complex multi-sided civil wars in which nearly every country in the Middle East has a stake.

In Syria, the main focus in recent days has been on the mainly Kurdish town of Kobani near the Turkish border, where Kurdish defenders have been trying to halt an advance by fighters who have driven 200,000 refugees across the border.

The jihadists have laid siege to the town for nearly four weeks and fought their way into it in recent days, taking control of almost half of the town. A UN envoy has said thousands of people could be massacred if Kobani falls.

The fighting in Kobani has taken place within view of Turkish tanks at the frontier, but Turkey has refused to intervene to help defend the city, infuriating its own 15 million-strong Kurdish minority, which rose up in the past week in days of rioting in which 38 people were killed.

Turkish Kurdish leaders have said their government's failure to aid the defence of Kobani could destroy Turkey's own peace process to end decades of insurgency which killed 40,000 people.

Kobani's heavily outgunned Kurdish defenders say they want Turkey to let them bring in reinforcements and weapons to fend off the Islamic State fighters, who seized heavy artillery and tanks seized from the fleeing Iraqi army in June.

The White House says it will not allow U.S. troops to be dragged into another ground war in Iraq, where President Barack Obama withdrew forces in 2011 after an eight year occupation.

The biggest army in the area belongs to Turkey, a NATO member which so far has refused to join the U.S.-led coalition striking Islamic State. Its reluctance has frustrated Washington as well as Turkey's own angry Kurdish minority.

Turkey says it will only join a military campaign against Islamic State if the coalition also confronts Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But Washington, which opposes Assad but has been flying its bombing missions over Syria without any objection from Assad's government, has made clear it has no intention of widening the campaign to join a war against Assad.                   


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