Turkey lets US strike Islamic State from its bases

The commitment from Ankara 'marks a breakthrough' for Washington as heavy fighting continues in Kobane

Turkish army near Syrian border
(Image credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty)

Turkey has given the US permission to launch air strikes against Islamic State from air bases in its territory, according to US defence officials.

President Obama's national security advisor Susan Rice told NBC that the US government welcomed the commitment, saying that Ankara would now play "an important role" in the fight against IS.

She confirmed that Turkey has now agreed to let US forces to use the bases "to train moderate Syrian opposition forces" and "engage in activities inside of Iraq and Syria".

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The CIA has been running a "train-and-equip" programme for hand-picked Syrian rebels since last year, which until now has been based in Saudi Arabia. One of the bases used for training and air strikes is expected to be the Incirlik Air Base situated in the south of the country, within 100 miles from the Syrian border.

Turkey has previously been criticised for failing to take action against IS militants, particularly in the key border town of Kobane.

"The move marks a breakthrough for Washington," according to The Times, following increasing pressure on Turkey to play a larger role in the fight against IS, due to its key geographical location.

While Turkey has deployed some troops to the Syrian border, it has refused to launch a ground offensive in either Syria or Iraq and has also stopped Kurdish fighters living in the country from crossing the border to fight.

Part of Turkey's reluctance to join the fight against Islamic State is due to concerns about arming its Kurdish population, against which it fought a long civil war, the BBC reports.

US defence officials are "continuing to talk to the Turks about other ways that they can play an important role", said Rice. "They are already essential to trying to prevent the flow of foreign fighters," she explained.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting between Kurdish forces and IS militants continues in Kobane, with neither side gaining ground, Ocalan Iso, deputy head of the Kobani defence council told The Guardian.

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