Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | Syria | turkey | seal | syria | border

Obama Administration Calls for Turkey to Seal Off Syrian Border

Obama Administration Calls for Turkey to Seal Off Syrian Border
Turkish Army tanks near Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border, Sanliurfa Province, in Turkey.  (Getty Images)

By    |   Saturday, 28 November 2015 09:49 AM

The U.S. wants Turkey to seal off a 60-mile stretch of its border with Syria in hopes of blocking the Islamic State (ISIS) from moving in foreign fighters, a move that Pentagon officials estimate could take as many as 30,000 soldiers.

Turkey has agreed that it needs to tighten the border, and doesn't think it will take as many troops, reports The Wall Street Journal, but has demands of its own, including support for a safe zone in Syria, which the Obama administration has rejected.

Further, Turkey points out that Washington has not been able to seal the U.S./Mexico border, a statement that angered U.S. officials.

“If we were at war with Mexico, we’d close that border,” a senior official responded to that line of argument.

Turkey also wants more financial help from Europe for dealing with the 2.2 million refugees that have come across the border.

Instead, U.S. officials believe increasing Turkey's deployment at its border would be the best way to close off the transit routes. Meanwhile, the United States wants to launch airstrikes in Syria, but has been slowed by Russia's own airstrikes.

U.S. and Turkish leaders already agreed in July on a joint effort for the border, but after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, the operation is becoming more urgent, and even after Turkey shot down a Russian military jet, the Obama administration isn't backing down from its demand that Turkey place more troops along the border, especially between two towns that are transit points for ISIS.

"This is an international threat, and it's all coming out of Syria and it's coming through Turkish territory," an unnamed, senior Obama administration official told the Journal.

Turkey is willing to secure the border, a senior official from that country told the publication, and said there is no need of a warning from the United States. But still, the United States has agreed, in principle, to allow air support for rebel troops to fight ISIS on the Syrian side of the border, and Turkey says when that happens, it will be "obvious to increase troops on our border."

Pentagon leaders are worried that Turkey will not be able to attract enough rebels on the Syrian side to fight ISIS, and Obama administration officials want Turkey to take the initiative by closing its border.

Turkey, meanwhile, believes closing the border is not enough: a safe zone is needed. The U.S. opposes creating a safe zone.

There also could be negative reaction from Europe if Turkey does not close its border and more ISIS fighters come through to Europe to commit terrorist attacks.

"They need to step up their game when it comes to this and they can’t necessarily look to us to fortify their border for them," a senior U.S. official said. "Paris is a wake-up call to them that this is a problem they don’t have under control.”

Turkey has taken some action in recent months, including closing main border crossing points, and has arrested key ISIS militants.

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The Obama administration wants Turkey to seal off a 60-mile stretch of its border with Syria in hopes of blocking the Islamic State from moving in foreign fighters, a move that Pentagon...
turkey, seal, syria, border
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2015-49-28
Saturday, 28 November 2015 09:49 AM
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