US and Turkey to 'work together' to fight Isis in Syria

Two leaders discuss future strategies in the complex Syrian civil war, including safe zones for civilians, in late night phone call

Wednesday 08 February 2017 08:05
Turkish soldiers near the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabulus on September 2, 2016
Turkish soldiers near the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabulus on September 2, 2016

Turkish presidential sources say US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have agreed to work together to retake the Syrian towns of Al Bab and Raqqa from Isis.

The two leaders discussed the fight against terror and Syria's crisis, including Mr Trump's plan to create safe zones for displaced civilians, in a phone call late on Tuesday evening.

Mr Trump reiterated that the US views Turkey "as a strategic partner and Nato ally", the offices of both leaders said.

Mr Erdogan reportedly asked Mr Trump to end the US' support for Kurdish forces currently battling Isis in the north of Syria. Turkey, which alongside the US has supported Syria's moderate opposition in the war, views the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist group.

Donald Trump ‘open to working with Moscow’ to fight Isis in Syria

The sources also said that CIA director Mike Pompeo is due to visit Turkey later this week to discuss both the YPG and how to tackle support for exiled US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government believes orchestrated last summer's failed military coup.

It was reported last week that Mr Trump has thrown out the existing plans drawn up under his predecessor Barack Obama on how to oust Isis from their de facto capital of Raqqa.

A detailed roadmap on how to proceed in the conflict - which is expected to be a gruelling fight lasting several months - was handed over to the new administration when Mr Trump took office last month, The Washington Post reported.

The plans, which involve heavily arming Kurdish forces, were dismissed by Mr Trump’s team, which worried the framework was “poor staff work” with “huge information gaps” and no “plan B.”

The new president said on the campaign trail he would defeat Isis “quickly” after taking office, in the past referencing a “top secret plan.”

However, it emerged that since taking office Mr Trump’s administration had asked the US military’s chiefs of staff to draw up new strategies for defeating the group, as well as the possibility of establishing safe zones for civilians in Syria.

A senior official who served in the Obama administration countered the Trump team’s criticism, telling the post that the the former president had been well aware of his plan’s shortcomings, and that further arming the Kurds was a ‘plan B’ option after it became clear Turkish forces could not be used to carry out the operation.

The US and its allies, as well as Russia and the Syrian government, have been fighting to remove Isis from their territory in Syria and Iraq since the group blitzed across the region in the summer of 2014.


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