Turkey, US begin program to train, equip Syria militants
Iran Press TV
Tue May 26, 2015 5:56PM
Turkey and the United States have officially started a joint program for training and equipping the militants operating against the government in Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday that the mission has kicked off with "small groups of militants" being trained on the Turkish soil.
"We can say that the train-and-equip (mission) has started with small groups. All infrastructure has been completed and the necessary equipment has been supplied," he told the official Anatolia news agency.
Cavusoglu claimed that the main aim of the program would be to prepare the militants for the fight against Takfiri ISIL terrorists, who control some parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
However, many suspect the move is in fact strengthening the terrorists who are operating against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Cavusoglu said that Ankara and Washington will jointly select those militants they deem suitable to attend the training, adding, "Both the Turkish and the American personnel who will carry out the mission have been dispatched."
In similar remarks on Monday, the top Turkish diplomat had said Ankara and Washington will provide "air protection" to those militants preparing to enter Syria.
The joint mission was repeatedly delayed over the past months, with Turkey insisting that the militants should be trained and backed for the sole purpose of fighting Assad.
Earlier in May, Cavusoglu said Turkey had opted to put off the joint program allegedly due to some technical problems, denying speculations that disagreements had occurred between Turkey and the US.
The program, which is based on a deal reached between Washington and Ankara in February, is aimed at training over 15,000 militants in three years. Over 120 US soldiers are reportedly in Turkey to train the militants.
Turkey was one of the three countries that publicly expressed readiness to allow its territory to be used for the training of the anti-Damascus militants.
"Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also announced that they will be hosting a train-and-equip program," Cavusoglu said on February 20.
The United States and its regional allies - especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey - are reportedly supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
Anti-Damascus militant groups also use Turkish territory to infiltrate into Syria, according to reports.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|