US military aids Turkey anti-IS operation in Syria

AFP , Wednesday 24 Aug 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (R) meets with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Ankara, Turkey, August 24, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)

The United States is providing Turkey's military with air cover, intelligence and advisers in its offensive against the Islamic State (IS) group inside Syria, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

"We want to help the Turks get ISIL off the border" between the two countries, the official told reporters, using an alternative acronym for the IS group.

The official was traveling with US Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived in Turkey on Wednesday for meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, in an effort to help improve relations strained by Turkey's coup d'etat attempt last month.

US advisers are communicating with the Turkish military about a plan to take the Syrian border town of Jarabulus, a key IS stronghold that is a primary objective of the Turkish offensive, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States is "syncing up with them, our advisers are in the planning cell with them," he said. "We'll have close air support if there's an operation" in Jarabulus.

Washington is also helping ensure that Kurdish fighters further south do not provoke a conflict with Turkish forces by moving north toward Jarabulus, the official said.

The United States has made it clear to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed Kurdish and Arab alliance, that "we don't and won't support them going north, and they can't without our air cover, so we've put a lid on them moving north," he said.

"I think we've put a lid on the Turks' biggest concern (which) gives us breathing space to make sure the Jarabulus operation is done the right way."

The Turkish operation -- named "Euphrates Shield" -- began early Wednesday with Turkish artillery pounding dozens of IS group targets around Jarabulus, according to the Turkish prime minister's office.

Turkish tanks and special forces accompanied by pro-Ankara Syrian rebels then rolled across the border in an unprecedented operation to drive the IS group out of the town from which it has fired rockets into Turkey.

Pro-Ankara Syrian rebels took the village of Keklijah three miles (five kilometers) west of Jarabulus and two miles from the border, Turkish state media said, in the operation's first reported military success.

Short link: