Turkey has agreed to allow the U.S. and its Arab allies the use of air bases to launch strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, defense officials said Sunday. Administration officials told the media that an American assessment team is expected to arrive in Turkey this week to determine what kind of missions can be flown from the Turkish bases, as well as and iron out the details of a training program for moderate Syrian rebels that was also reportedly agreed on over the weekend.
A Turkish government official told The Associated Press Sunday that Turkey had put the number of opposition fighters to be trained at 4,000 and said they would be screened by Turkish intelligence.The government in Ankara has come under pressure from Washington to take a greater role in the fight against Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS, amid the bloody battle for the northern Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The fighting has forced thousands of Kurdish refugees to flee into Turkey.
As fighting continued in Kobani Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the tenuous situation. Speaking in Cairo, Kerry said the defense of Kobani does not define the international counterterrorism strategy. Islamic State militants have taken parts of Kobani, Kerry indicated, but not all of it. The United Nations has warned of mass casualties if the town falls. “There will be ups and there will be downs over the next days as there are in any kind of conflict,” Kerry said at the conclusion of an international aid conference for the Gaza Strip.
American officials are “continuing to talk to the Turks about other ways that they can play an important role. They are already essential to trying to prevent the flow of foreign fighters” and prevent extremists from exporting oil through Turkey. “So Turkey has many ways it can contribute,” Rice told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”