Turkey and U.S. Plan to Create Syria ‘Safe Zone’ Free of ISIS
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Turkey and the United States have agreed in general terms on a plan that envisions American warplanes, Syrian insurgents and Turkish forces working together to sweep Islamic State militants from a 60-mile-long strip of northern Syria along the Turkish border, American and Turkish officials say.
The plan would create what officials from both countries are calling an Islamic State-free zone controlled by relatively moderate Syrian insurgents, which the Turks say could also be a “safe zone” for displaced Syrians.
While many details have yet to be determined, including how deep the strip would extend into Syria, the plan would significantly intensify American and Turkish military action against Islamic State militants in the country, as well as the United States’ coordination with Syrian insurgents on the ground. The plan was described in recent days by four senior American officials, who were briefed on the talks and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational planning.
“Details remain to be worked out, but what we are talking about with Turkey is cooperating to support partners on the ground in northern Syria who are countering ISIL,” a senior Obama administration official said, using another term for the Islamic State. “The goal is to establish an ISIL-free zone and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey’s border with Syria.”
But the plan faces the same challenges that have long plagued American policy in Syria. While the United States is focused on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, both the Turks and the Syrian insurgents see defeating President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as their first priority.
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