Turkey allows US-led coalition to use its bases in fight against Islamic State

"We have not asked for the Turks to send ground forces of their own into Syria," US National Security Advisor Susan Rice says.

October 13, 2014 10:16
2 minute read.

Turkish army tanks manoeuver as Turkish Kurds watch over the Syrian town of Kobani. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Turkey has allowed the United States and partners to use Turkey bases the White House said on Sunday.

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

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"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.

A US-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 defense 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 US 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 US-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 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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