US and Turkey to create ISIS free buffer zone in Syria

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News Agencies//The United States and Turkey are finalizing plans for a military campaign to push the Islamic State out of a strip of land along the Turkey-Syria border, deepening efforts to halt the extremists’ advances.

A US official says the “Islamic State-free zone” aims to ensure greater security and stability along the border. However, the official says any joint military efforts with Turkey would not include the imposition of a no-fly zone.

Smoke rises from the Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria near the Turkish border. (Photo: Reuters)
Smoke rises from the Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria near the Turkish border. (Photo: Reuters)

Turkey has been pushing the US to set up a no-fly zone, though Washington has long denied those requests. Turkey did agree last week to let the US launch strikes against the Islamic State from one of its bases. The official insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the talks with Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish YPG militia on Monday captured a town from Islamic State fighters in northern Syria after a month-long offensive against the ultra hard-line militants in the area to cut their supply lines, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Observatory said the town near the Euphrates River was a launch pad for Islamic State to wage raids on the Kurdish-held town of Kobani further north at the border with Turkey. US-led air strikes assisted the Kurds in the assault, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory.

Conflicting Strategy

Turkish troops however, shelled positions held by the Kurdish fighters who were battling the Islamic State group with the aid of the US, Syria’s main Kurdish militia and an activist group said Monday.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, said the Sunday night shelling on the border village of Til Findire targeted one of their vehicles. It said Til Findire is east of the border town of Kobani, where the Kurds handed a major defeat to the Islamic State group earlier this year.

A Turkish airstrike against ISIS positions.
A Turkish airstrike against ISIS positions.

In cross-border strikes since Friday, Turkey has targeted both Kurdish fighters as well as ISIS, stepping up its involvement in Syria’s increasingly complex civil war. The Syrian Kurds are among the most effective ground forces battling ISIS group, but Turkey fears they could revive an insurgency against Ankara in pursuit of an independent state.

A Turkish official said Turkish forces are only targeting Islamic State forces in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in neighboring Iraq. The official said the “ongoing military operation seeks to neutralize imminent threats to Turkey’s national security and continues to target ISIS in Syria and the PKK in Iraq.”

“The PYD, along with others, remains outside the scope of the current military effort,” the official said, referring to the political arm of the YPG. The official added that authorities were “investigating claims that the Turkish military engaged positions held by forces other than ISIS.”

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of rules that bar officials from speaking to journalists without authorization. The YPG did not say in its Monday statement whether there were casualties in the shelling.