The US Secretary of State has said that the US and Turkey intend to shut off Turkey’s border with Syria in a joint military operation.
In an interview with CNN, John Kerry said “The entire border of northern Syria – 75 percent of it has now been shut off. And we are entering an operation with the Turks to shut off the other remaining 98 kilometers”
The northern part of Syria along the border with Turkey has long been contested between Kurd militias and fighters of the terrorist group Islamic State (IS). The US previously voiced its intention to train and arm a moderate Syrian force that would take control over the area and defend it from IS, preventing the smuggling of fighters, arms and other goods across the border.
Kerry mentioned the operation with Turkey as he described to CNN the mounting pressure on IS in both Syria and Iraq, but wouldn’t elaborate on what it amounted to and whether the US would send ground troops to take part in the operation. US President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of special forces against IS in an apparent deviation from an initial pledge not to have boots on the ground in the campaign.
Earlier top Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu, mentioned Ankara may launch a new military operation against IS in a matter of days, although Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said no ground operation was planned.
Turkey has already declared a bombing campaign against IS, though it was reported to have been targeting the positions of Kurdish militias that are fighting IS and are allied with Turkish Kurds against the Turkish government.
Ankara is also allowing the US to use its airbase to conduct sorties into Syrian airspace.