only in the past year has Ankara decided to become military involved in the alliance. Despite now being fully integrated in the partnership, Turkey has been left feeling agitated by the US's unanticipated lack of support and new links with the Kurdish People's Protection Units.
Turkey joined the US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other Syrian rebel groups in 2014. However, only in the past year has Ankara decided to become military involved in the alliance. Despite now being fully integrated in the partnership, Turkey has been left feeling agitated by the US’s unanticipated lack of support and new links with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.
On September 10 2014, US President Barack Obama gave a speech indicating his intent to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). On September 22, 2014, a coalition including Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – all led by the United States – began to strike targets of ISIL in Syria and other groups posing similar dangers including Khorasan to the west of Aleppo, and the al-Nusra Front around Al-Raqqah.
Turkey, which has been involved in the Syrian Civil War since the beginning of hostilities in 2011, agreed to join the US-led coalition shortly after it was established in 2014. When Turkey originally joined the alliance, Ankara only offered tactical support. However, in August 2015, Turkey agreed to take a more active role in the fight against the extremist group, and became fully integrated in the coalition. During September 2015, Turkey announced that its fighter jets had carried out their first airstrikes as part of the union.
Nonetheless, since joining the coalition Turkey feels as though it has been left to fight ISIL on its own within its borders as the rest of the coalition focuses its efforts against Islamic militant groups in Syria and Iraq. ISIL has recently carried out a series of bomb attacks on Turkish town such as Kilis near the Syrian border, leaving approximately 20 citizens dead and 70 injured.
Turkey has since responded to these attacks by saying it needs more assistance from the coalition to defend its borders. Turkey claims the coalition has left Turkey “alone” in its “struggle against this organization which is shedding blood both through suicide bombings and by attacks on Kilis”. Turkey claims “none of those who say they are fighting ISIL have suffered the kind of losses” that Turkey has, “nor paid such a heavy price”.
Turkey has also added that the US has not been fulfilling its promises and had fallen behind on the delivery of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) missiles – light multiple rocket launchers mounted on standard Army Medium Tactical Vehicles – that were due to arrive during April 2016.
The involvement of Kurdish factions in the United Sates’ anti-ISIL effort has also strained US-Turkish relations. After recent images emerged showing US soldiers in Syria wearing the insignia of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Turkey criticised the U.S. for dealing with them.
Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdish Workers’ party (PKK) – an armed insurgent group which it has fought for decades, that is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Turkey said not considering the YPG a terrorist group was “two-faced” after US officials claimed the military used the patches as protection against ISIL.
Despite this, Turkey’s foreign minister has suggested his country could still carry out joint military operations with the United States to oust the Islamic State group from Syria, while Turkey’s Foreign Minister has said that operations could “easily advance to Raqqa,” the main ISIL bastion in Syria.