The United States and Turkey have agreed to work together to clear the Islamic State group from northern Syria, a senior US official said today.
“The goal is to establish an ISIL-free zone and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey’s border with Syria,” the official told AFP, using an acronym for the jihadist group.
The pledge comes after a week of deadly violence in Turkey that the authorities blamed on both Kurdish PKK separatists and the Islamic State.
The violence included a suicide attack that killed 32 people and car bomb that killed two Turkish soldiers.
Ankara responded with a wave of attacks on Islamic State targets in Syria and Kurdish targets in Iraq.
The US official, who asked not to be named, was speaking during a visit to Ethiopia by US President Barack Obama.
The US official said that details of the zone “remain to be worked out,” but that “any joint military efforts will not include the imposition of a no-fly zone” — a long standing Turkish demand.
It would however entail Turkey supporting US “partners on the ground” who are fighting against IS.
But many are questioning whether Turkey is more interested in limiting Kurdish capabilities in Syria and Iraq than tackling IS.
Kurds living in belt that spans Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran have long advocated independence, something Ankara has roundly rejected.
Publicly, the US has given tacit backing to Turkey’s actions, saying Ankara “has a right to take action related to terrorist targets.”
But there is concern that sustained attacks could cause a rift with Kurdish regional authorities in Iraq, who are a key partner in fighting the Islamic State inside that country.