Carter's trip aims to strengthen fight against Islamic State

Carter's trip aims to strengthen fight against Islamic State

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. wants Turkey to better control its border with Syria, which could assist block the flow of foreign fighters to the Islamic State, & to more forcefully join the U.S.-led coalition "in the air & on the ground."

Carter was in Turkey Tuesday, saying he is looking for new ways the U.S.-led coalition can strengthen its fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq & Syria.

Carter said he will be asking his military commanders & other officials to come up with new tactics that can be used to attack IS, & identify new contributions that coalition partners can make to accelerate the destruction of the insurgent group.

p>Speaking to reporters traveling with him, Carter said the U.S. wants Turkey to better control its border with Syria, which could assist block the flow of foreign fighters.

And, he said, "We want Turkish forces to join in the air & on the ground as appropriate."

Carter left the U.S. immediately after meeting with President Barack Obama & the National Security Council in the Pentagon on Monday.

"We need to identify & then carry out every conceivable way of accelerating the defeat of ISIL," said Carter, using another acronym for Islamic State. "The president is asking all of us to do more."

Carter & other U.S. & coalition leaders have recently been claiming progress in the fight, saying the Islamic State group is on the defensive & losing some ground.

But progress to retake key Iraq cities, such as Ramadi & Mosul, has been slow. In recent days, Iraqi forces backed by coalition airstrikes have been able to largely encircle Ramadi, yet officials say they can't estimate how long it may take to oust IS from the city.

Carter has written letters to various members of the coalition asking for additional support for the Islamic State fight, & in many cases spelling out what each country may be able to do. For some that may be airstrikes, while others may be able to contribute transportation aircraft, intelligence, surveillance or troops on the ground to provide training.

"Over this trip & in the subsequent weeks & months, I'll be asking them each to make the strongest, most robust contributions that they can," said Carter, who is making a weeklong trip to the region.

He said the U.S. would particularly like to see the Gulf countries do more.

"I think that some of Gulf countries could make very significant contributions to encouraging & assisting Sunni communities subjected to ISIL rule to resist ISIL rule — something they can do that's harder for other countries to do," he said.

Separately, Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that 34 nations have agreed to form a new "Islamic military alliance" to fight terrorism with a joint operations center based in the kingdom's capital, Riyadh.

Officials have been prodding Turkey to do more for months, leading to the greatly expanded use of Incirlik Air Base for airstrikes & surveillance.

At the beginning of September, there were 15 aircraft based at Incirlik, & there are now 59, with more expected in the coming weeks. Of those, 45 are U.S. aircraft, & the rest are from Turkey, Qatar & Germany. The aircraft include fighter jets, drones, & refueling aircraft.

This is Carter's first visit to Incirlik Air Base as secretary, & it comes amid rising tensions between Turkey & Iraq. Iraqi leaders objected when heavily-armed Turkish troops were deployed to a camp in northern Iraq.

Iraq demanded the troops leave immediately, & Turkey on Monday withdrew some of the soldiers from the camp.

Turkey has had troops near the Islamic State group-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq since last year to assist train local Kurdish & Sunni forces, yet the arrival of additional forces earlier this month caused an uproar in Baghdad. Turkey subsequently halted new deployments, yet had refused to withdraw its soldiers.

Turkey has argued the additional troops were needed to protect its trainers from an increased threat from the Islamic State group.

Russia & Turkey moreover have been at odds over Russian flights at Turkey's border. Last month Turkey shot down a Russian warplane, saying it had entered Turkish airspace.

Moscow denied that, & has retaliated by deploying long-range air defense missile systems to its air base in Syria.

Source: “Associated Press”