Turkey authorises US and allies to use its airbases in fight against IS


Incirlik Air Base

The Turkish Government has authorised the US-led coalition to use its airbases to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq.

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice was quoted by NBC News as saying that the country has also agreed to train moderate Syrian rebels and 'engage in activities inside of Iraq and Syria.'

"That's the new commitment, and one that we very much welcome," Rice added, noting that the agreement included use of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey's south.

An unnamed Turkish government official said nearly 4,000 Syrian opposition fighters would be trained on the Turkish soil after thorough screening by the local intelligence.

A joint US Central Command-European Command planning team is set to travel to Turkey this week, as the US military works closely with Turkey to further develop a training regimen.

The US has long wanted access to the Turkish bases, and the country to actively participate in the fight against IS, which has captured several cities in Iraq and Syria, including the Kurdish-controlled town of Kobane near Turkey's border, in recent months.

The offensive has also sent several thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing into Turkey.

Currently, the US and coalition fighter aircraft are reportedly flying out of al-Dhafra Air Base in the UAE, Ali al-Salem Air Base in Kuwait, and al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

"The Turkish approval coincides with the UK's Mod announcement that the UK soldiers have started training the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters."

Meanwhile, the US and allied aircraft have continued airstrikes against the IS in Iraq and Syria, in addition to conducting several airdrops of supplies for Iraqi security forces near Bayji, over the weekend.

The latest strikes in the Syrian cities of Raqqah and Kobane destroyed an IS-held armoured vehicle compound, a fighting position and an IS staging area.

The Turkish approval coincides with the UK Ministry of Defence's (Mod) announcement that the UK soldiers have started training the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to better combat the terrorist group.

A MoD spokeswoman said: "The defence secretary has approved the deployment of a small specialist team of non-combat army trainers, which is now in the Irbil area providing instruction on operating, employing and maintaining the heavy machine guns that were gifted by the UK last month."


Image: An aerial view of the airfield at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. Photo: courtesy of MSGT Patrick Nugent.

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