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Inherent Resolve - Phase 2 - With Turkey

People in Turkey want the government to fight back against the Islamic State group. Turkey is a member of the American-led coalition against the Islamist organization. But Ankara hadn't played an active role. That's because Turkish leaders said removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took priority over fighting Islamic State.

The Suruc bombing on 20 July 2015, linked to Islamic State, killed dozens of people at a rally in southern Turkey. The massacre triggered a domestic crackdown on hundreds of alleged militants that police tied to either the Islamic State or the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. After that, airstrikes began.

Ankara’s decision days to open the Incirlik airbase to US jets was reportedly described as a “game changer” by one US official in the battle against the Islamic State group. A surge in Islamic State activity in Turkey caused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to agree, but he said the use of the base by the US would be "within a certain framework." However, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Incirlik could be used as part of its continuing air support to Syrian Kurdish militia belonging to the PYD in its fight against the Islamic State group. But Kirby’s Turkish counterpart, Tanju Bilgic, said supporting the Kurdish militia was not part of the agreement.

On 24 July 2015, Turkey officially launched its two-front campaign against PKK in northern Iraq and the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria, marking Turkey's first military involvement in the US-led campaign against ISIL. The week had seen a surge in violence in Turkey, which shares southern borders with war-torn Syria and Iraq, stretching 510 miles and 220 miles respectively.

Turkey was on both sides. On the one hand, they were bombing ISIS. On the other hand, they are bombing forces that were fighting ISIS. The attacks included a suicide bombing in the Turkish border town of Suruc that killed 32 people and injured over 100, and the killings of two police officers in the southern city of Ceylanpinar. The Suruc suicide bomber was reportedly affiliated with the ISIL, which had captured vast Syrian territories. PKK, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for the Ceylanpinar killings, saying it was in retaliation for the deadly attack in Suruc.

Turkish airstrikes since the bombing were as focused on Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as on Islamic extremists, opposition politicians said. Opposition politicians accused Erdogan of using the campaign against Islamic militants as cover for cracking down on the Kurds and to stir war fever, predicting that Turkey’s president will call an early election on the ground that the country is facing a national emergency. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) on 25 July accused Erdogan of planning "to set the country on fire” in preparation for an election, hoping that by doing so his Justice and Development Party (AKP) will secure the parliamentary majority that eluded it in the June 2015 polls.

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants and Kurdish PKK forces provoked mixed reactions. Both a more assertive Turkish role against IS and, more particularly, Turkish permission for the United States to use Incirlik air base for airstrikes on IS targets, were welcomed. But at the same time, Turkish forces are engaged in hostile activities against Kurdish forces that are battling the radical Islamists.

The Counter-ISIL ICC, which is supported by multiple agencies (DHS, FBI, DoD, and members of the IC). The ICC streamlines and consolidates counter-ISIL messaging initiatives to support a coalition-wide strategic communications effort. The CSCC also sponsors a Digital Outreach Team, which conducts outreach that incorporates counter-ISIL messaging in English, Arabic, Somali, and Urdu. Funding allocated for the CSCC totals $4.73 million in FY 2014 and $5.43 million in FY 2015; there are 67 staff. NEA implemented two small sub-grants inside Syria. According to DoS, the work will archive and disseminate information about human rights violations perpetrated by ISIL. Broadcasts are in multiple languages, encouraging debates about inclusiveness and tolerance, reporting on human rights abuses, comparing ISIL’s extremist ideology with moderate tenets of peace and counter-ISIL narratives, and promoting the participation of women. The sub-grantees also conduct advocacy art campaigns through media such as graffiti and posters.

By November 2015, the Arab allies who with great fanfare sent warplanes on the initial missions there a year earlier had largely vanished from the campaign. These allies, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan, had shifted most of their aircraft" to fight the fledgling Houthi government which took power in Yemen in September 2014.

For the first time since the war against the Islamic State militant group began in 2014, US warplanes launched strategic strikes 16 Novemer 2015 on trucks carrying crude oil in Syria, cutting off an important source of income for the terror group. The airstrikes, which were carried out by two AC-130 gunships and four low-flying A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, and hit an estimated 116 trucks in Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria. US planes dropped leaflets warning the drivers to jump out of the trucks and run away, since it was unlikely the drivers belong to IS. Airstrikes on IS oil facilities were not too successful because the militants quickly repaired the damage.

The coalition unleashed a wave of attacks targeting ISIL's oil distribution chain, disrupting a source of revenue for the terrorists. The coalition destroyed 116 tanker trucks in Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. The aim of Operation Tidal Wave II was to target ISIL's entire oil distribution chain, which includes trucks, wellheads, pumps and collection points. The execution of Tidal Wave II was similar to the way Tidal Wave I was carried out in the 1940s against Nazi oil fields in Romania.

The United States on 22 November conducted an Operation Tidal Wave strike against ISIL's illicit oil system. The US conducted a large strike near Al-Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor, which are in Syria. And that strike destroyed 283 oil tanker trucks. As with the first tanker truck strike, the US conducted another leaflet drop ahead of time to warn the civilian drivers to leave the area before that strike.

The United States could ‘take out’ the Islamic State (IS) group with the deployment of 10,000 ground troops, US Senator John McCain has told FRANCE 24 in an exclusive interview 19 November 2015. The Republican former presidential candidate said the IS group posed “a direct threat” to the United States that could be dealt a knock-out blow with a ground deployment in Syria.

“Ground troops [means] about 10,000 Americans with a coalition of Arab countries, hopefully NATO countries, maybe even France, where we could go in on the ground with sufficient air support to take out ISIS,” McCain said, using another acronym for the Islamic State militants. “They are not invincible, there are not unbeatable.”

Republican and Democratic representatives in the US House of Representatives urged President Barack Obama to stop trying to overthrow Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and focus all efforts on fighting the Islamic State (ISIL) terrorist group. Democrat Tulsi Gabbard and Republican Austin Scott introduced legislation on 20 November 2015 to end an "illegal war" to overthrow Assad. "Working to remove Assad at this stage is counter-productive to what I believe our primary mission should be," Austin said.

Obama rejected calls for a shift in US strategy and said Republican US lawmakers who want to send ground troops fail to understand the potential consequences. "Folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do," President Barack Obama told reporters on 16 November 2015 at a news conference at the conclusion of the two-day G20 summit. "If they think that somehow their advisers are better than the chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate."

General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Congressional committee on 10 December 2015 that it was only in the last two months that the Pentagon got serious with airstrikes on IS oil routes. He admitted that for more than a year, the Pentagon hadn’t bothered because it wasn’t communicating sufficiently with the State Department. Dunford and the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who was also giving evidence to the same committee, both claimed that the decision not to strike oil trucks run by terrorists was to taken in order to “avoid civilian casualties.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said December 01, 2015 the United States is deploying a "specialized expeditionary targeting force" to Iraq to put more pressure on Islamic State (IS) militants and be in position to conduct raids over the border in Syria. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Carter said the force would help Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces in the fight against the extremist group. He said the deployment was being done in cooperation with the Iraqi government.

"These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders," he said, using another acronym for the group. "This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria." Carter did not provide specific troop numbers but said the force would have "a larger number" than the small group of US troops being deployed separately to Syria to assist opposition groups battling IS.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn told the House of Commons that airstrikes are essential to halting the expansion of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. At its heart, he says, the question of airstrikes is “very simple.” “What shall we do to confront this threat?” The “carnage” in Paris “brought home the present danger” to the UK and fostered the need to act against the extremists, he says, because it could have been and “could still be” a British city.

Benn added taht it was Britain’s “moral and practical” duty to extend airstrikes into Syria. He believes the mandate for military action agreed by Labour Party at its annual conference have been met by the United Nations Security Council resolution 2249. He brands IS as “fascists,” and reminded the House how it committed to fighting Hitler and Mussolini.

Opposition Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn voiced strong opposition despite dozens from his own party backing the government's mandate for airstrikes. "To oppose another reckless and half-baked intervention isn't pacifism. It's hard-headed common sense," he said.

Public opinion in Britain was divided over launching the strikes, with a YouGov opinion poll showing voter support for action in Syria had fallen to the lowest level since September 2014, with 48 percent of respondents supporting strikes and 31 percent against. On 02 December 2015 British MPs voted 397 to 223 in favor of launching airstrikes against ISIS in Syria - a 174 majority. Some 67 Labour MPs voted in favor of strikes, swinging the vote in the government’s favor.

The US has withdrawn its F-15 warplanes deployed to the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey, the US European Command Headquarters EUCOM said 16 December 2015. The Air Force F-15 Eagles and Strike Eagles deployed to Incirlik returned to RAF Lakenheath, UK, according to a statement. The six F-15Cs arrived 06 November 2015 and “conducted training and operational missions supporting Turkish allies and their sovereign airspace,” the military said. The six F-15Es followed on 12 November 2015 to conduct counter-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) operations in Syria and Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. US Air Force A-10s, remotely piloted aircraft and other Coalition aircraft will remain at Incirlik conducting counter-IS missions.

Washington’s reluctance to risk civilian casualties in the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State terror group was again being questioned in December 2015. “Air forces are being shackled with unwarranted constraints, leaving civilian populations to suffer sectarian butchery by the IS,” said retired Lieutenant General David Deptula, who helped lead previous air campaigns over Iraq and Afghanistan. “The U.S. operates under a zero-civilian-casualty standard that far exceeds the standards of international law,” he said. “It yields the Islamic State the equivalent of an air defense capability they do not have to pay for, equip or man to employ.”




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