U.S., Turkey to increase cooperation against ISIS

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter promises to ramp up joint efforts with Turkey to deal ISIS a "lasting defeat".

Arutz Sheva North America Staff ,

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter vowed during a visit to Ankara on Friday to ramp up joint efforts with Turkey to deal Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists a "lasting defeat", the Pentagon said.

Carter met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, as well as Defense Minister Fikri Isik on a flying visit to Turkey, a crucial but sensitive NATO ally in the fight against ISIS.

"Both sides agreed to maintain frequent communication on the full range of mutual interests, including close coordination and continued transparency in the coalition effort to deal ISIL a lasting defeat," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement, using an alternative acronym for the jihadist group.

Carter reaffirmed his support for the strategic U.S.-Turkey alliance and vowed that Washington would "continue to stand side-by-side with our NATO ally against shared threats".

Washington is alarmed by tensions between Turkey and Iraq as the long-awaited battle to retake Iraq's second city Mosul from ISIS jihadists enters a decisive phase.

Turkey, which fears the Mosul offensive could boost the influence of anti-Ankara Kurdish militia, says it cannot stay on the sidelines, but Baghdad is firmly against the involvement of Turkish troops.

Washington wants Ankara to refrain from military operations in Iraq without the green light from Baghdad, fearing the war of words could jeopardize a fragile pact to keep rival sectarian and ethnic militias out of central Mosul.

Respect for Iraq's sovereignty is an "important principle", Carter told reporters on his plane en route to Turkey.

A senior U.S. defense official said Washington was urging both sides to "tamp down the rhetoric".

"We have been talking behind the scenes to get the Iraqis and the Turks to come to an understanding on how to move forward on Mosul and on Turkish presence in Iraq," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The visit comes after Turkish warplanes carried out deadly strikes on U.S.-backed militias in northern Syria, including Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The Turkish army said Thursday the raids killed between 160 and 200 militants from the People's Protection Units (YPG), a group considered a terror group by Ankara but an effective force by Washington in the fight against ISIS.

Carter declined to comment on the issue during his flight to Turkey.

Turkey in August launched an unprecedented operation in northern Syria, sending tanks and troops to back Syrian rebels who have ousted ISIS from several key areas including Jarabulus and Dabiq.

Carter’s visit to Turkey comes amid tensions between Ankara and Washington which have grown after the failed July coup in Turkey.

Turkish authorities blamed the putsch on a rogue military group led by U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, an ally turned rival of Erdogan, and they have repeatedly demanded his extradition.

Gulen has hinted that the recent uprising by members of the country’s military could have been “staged” by the government, and has also denied any involvement in it.

Carter on Friday toured the Turkish parliament that was extensively damaged by air strikes on the coup night.

"(He) expressed his condolences to all those who lost their lives defending Turkey's democratically-elected government," said the Pentagon statement.

AFP contributed to this report.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)