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At Turkey’s request, NATO held a rare emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, a conflict that Turkey jumped into with both feet over the weekend with multiple airstrikes in both countries.
The Alliance’s founding treaty says that members can call for such a meeting when they consider their “territorial integrity, political independence or security” to be at risk. While no decisions about how to wage the war will come out of the meeting, Ege Seckin, an analyst at IHS Country Risk told SitRep that they “could serve as a precursor for a request for assistance” at a later date, and is likely “an attempt for Turkey to internationalize the issue. This could be mean logistical and intelligence support,” from the alliance if the air war drags on for an extended period of time.
NATO issued a rather run of the mill statement at the conclusion of the closed door meeting, saying that “we strongly condemn the terrorist attacks against Turkey,” while pledging to “continue to follow the developments on the South-Eastern border of NATO very closely.”
More plans, more bombs. The Americans and the Turks are also hashing out what to do about a plan to establish a “safe zone” in northern Syria free from Islamic State fighters, from which moderate Syrian forces could launch attacks against the jihadists. It’s not clear who these Syrian forces might be, since the U.S. has only managed to train about 60 Syrians to date, despite sinking $500 million into an ambitious training program designed to have trained up about 3,000 fighters by the end of this year.
Planning to plan. While NATO chews things over, U.S. and Turkish officials in Ankara are also locked in intense negotiations over American warplanes using Turkish bases to launch manned and unmanned airstrikes against the Islamic State. But a Defense Department official said on Monday not to expect the bombing to begin any time soon. If an agreement is hammered out, U.S. pilots won’t begin flying for “weeks,” spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters at the Pentagon.
American defense officials say that the U.S. is not providing any logistical or intelligence support for the Turkish strikes and have only shared information “in the interest of deconfliction” between U.S. and Turkish warplanes over Syrian and Iraqi airspace.
Real talk. While the U.S.-led coalition is focused on the Islamic State, Ankara has also started hitting Kurdish positions in Iraq, and the Turkish view on the Kurdish PKK militia — with which it has been locked in a decades-long bloody conflict — is pretty clear. “There is no difference between PKK and Daesh,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Monday, using an alternate term for the jihadist group. “You can’t say that PKK is better because it is fighting Daesh,” he added.