US-Turkish militaries to meet on IS threat

WASHINGTON (TIP): A joint US-Turkish military team will meet next week in Ankara to discuss the fight against Islamic militants after Washington October 9 pressed Turkey to join a US-led coalition.

Two top US envoys met Thursday in Ankara with Turkish leaders seeking to win their Nato ally’s support to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group, which has seized a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Although state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not outline any specific commitments made by Turkey, she said the two countries held “detailed and constructive talks.”

Retired general John Allen and US pointman on Iraq, Brett McGurk, had “discussed several measures to advance the military line of effort against ISIL,” Psaki said.

She highlighted that “a joint military planning team will visit Ankara early next week to follow up in military-to-military channels.”

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“Both sides also agreed that we will continue a dynamic and deepening bilateral consultation process across the multiple lines of effort against ISIL,” which included military support as well as battling foreign fighters and choking off funds to IS.

The two US officials had “emphasized that urgent steps are immediately required to degrade ISIL’s military capabilities and ongoing ability to threaten the region,” Psaki said in a statement.

There has been frustration in Washington that Ankara has yet to commit its well-equipped and well-trained forces to the fight against the militants, also known by the acronym ISIL.

The crisis has been deepened by the battle for the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, just across the border with Turkey, amid fears it may soon fall into the militants’ hands.

Psaki insisted earlier: “It’s not a situation where we are making demands.”

“We are having a discussion with Turkey that’s been ongoing, but certainly will continue today about what role they’re willing to play in the coalition efforts.”

But, she acknowledged, “there is no question that Turkey is well-positioned to contribute.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu however said earlier that Ankara could not be expected to act alone.

“It’s not realistic to expect that Turkey will lead a ground operation on its own,” he said.

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