‘Defending Turkey’: The Key to Prevent ISIS Expansion
In June 2012, Assad forces shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet. Agitated by this act, Turkey invoked Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, inviting NATO’s consultation on this “threat” against the territorial digression along with the discussion on safety and security of NATO members. The situation escalated October 3rd, 2012, when a Syrian military shell struck Akçakale in Turkey. 5 Turkish civilians were killed in this incident, while injuring another 10. This incident resulted in several clashes between the two. Turkey, for example, retaliated by shelling the Syrian army base.
In November 2012, Turkey requested NATO for help. The poor air defence was making Turkey’s stand vulnerable in the fight against ISIS.
To prevent an all out war, NATO met again for consultation and announced that “in view of the Syrian regime’s recent aggressive acts at NATO’s south-eastern border, which are a […] clear and present danger to the security of one of its Allies, the North Atlantic Council met today […] and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an Ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law”.
In November 2012, Turkey requested NATO for help. The poor air defence was making Turkey’s stand vulnerable in the fight against ISIS. NATO decided to contribute two Patriot surface-to-air missile systems, while Germany, Netherland and the US volunteered to do so. Hours after the decision, NATO foreign Minister made a statement of cooperation, “we stand with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity. We […] declare our determination to deter threats to and defend Turkey. […] NATO’s ultimate task is the protection and defence of our members. Today, we underline once again our steadfast commitment to the security of this Alliance, and our full solidarity and resolve to protect our populations and territories.”
The plans proved to be quite successful and in another NATO meeting, it was unanimously decided to expand the plan. By mid- February 2013 six missile batteries of these allies were fully operational, and under command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Spanish troops joined the NATO’s missile deployment in January 2015, replacing the Dutch unit.
However, I would say that these actions have proved to be quite insufficient in protecting Turkey. For example, in March 2014 a Syrian Fighter aircraft was shot down by Turkish forces, after it violated Turkey’s airspace. Following the incident Erdogan announced that “if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard. Our response will be heavy […]”.
As of today, US had already sent 500 military experts and trainers to train the Syrian rebels and the training mission had already began last month.
In June, Turkey called for an emergency meeting of the council, to assess the threat from volatile Iraq where 80 Turkish citizens where held hostage by the Islamic State. 49 were officials of the consulate general along with 29 civilians (drivers and good suppliers). They were all abducted in a single day. This was one of the escalations that led Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, to announce that NATO would protect Turkey in case it would be attacked by militias of the Islamic State. The statement made by the NATO officials on December 2014, further strengthen their plan in defending allies as they made it very clear that NATO was willing to commit all the available resources in to assist by building combat effective strategy and capacity building initiatives against the Islamic State. The Council also made it very clear that a Foreign Minister of the region had to submit an official plea to the NATO for its assistance in the conflict, till then NATO would continue to maintain a close eye on the issue.
NATO members again met in September 2014 and published the Wales Summit Declaration, in which allied members unanimously agreed their support to the NATO-Iraq partnership which was aimed to support Iraq in restoring security and effectively building security forces. The Declaration stated that this would be persuaded through “strong political dialogue, education and training, response to terrorism, defence institution building, border security and communications”.
With NATO on board, Turkey agreed to train Syrian Rebels on their soil. It was then announced that the US would be sending troops to train Syrian fighters and evaluate the situation on the ground. As of today, US had already sent 500 military experts and trainers to train the Syrian rebels and the training mission had already began last month. Pentagon estimated that the US military experts had the ability to train almost 5,000 Syrian rebels in the first year, with more accurate calculation; Pentagon estimated that more than 15,000 troops would be required to win this fight.
Despite the coalition air strikes in the region, efforts made by the Kurds continue to grow. Islamic state has already captured the two border crossings of Turkey, Jarabulus and Tal Abyad.
Coalition against the Islamic State
The Coalition was formed on September 2014, under the leadership of the United States, with the aim to counter ISIS. Structurally there are two coalitions, one led by America in Iraq, and the American led intervention in Syria. Since Iraq has formally requested the nations especially the coalition to defend it against ISIS, many nations have joined the fight.
The US started carrying out missile strikes in 2014. Islamic State had then controlled over Iraq, Syria, Sinai and Eastern Libya. As the war intensified around 20.000 fighters made their way in the Islamic State, which now controls a size of the nation Belgium, with a revenue of millions and governing thousand civilians. Despite the coalition air strikes in the region, efforts made by the Kurds continue to grow. Islamic state has already captured the two border crossings of Turkey, Jarabulus and Tal Abyad.
Accusations, Allegations and the Question of Loyalty
According to Kurdish fighters, ISIS always launches an attack on the Syrian border towns governed by the Turkish forces, similar to the attack it did on Kobani. Turkey, on numerous occasions has denied. Despite efforts from the US and the NATO, Turkey failed to keep vigilance in its regions, such as the Kobani where Turkey remained inactive.
Despite efforts from the American led coalition in Syria and Iraq the Islamic State continues to grow. With more area under its control, an effort of Turkey and NATO remains an issue for security for both.
Many experts have criticised, Turkey for its blind eye towards the issue. Some analysts say that the Turkey is maintaining a “murky” policy, and secretly supporting the ISIS in order to get the Kurdish fighters killed. Due to such allegations made on Turkey, the US and its allied support in the region has proved to be ineffective. Turkey is getting today “every inch” of support from military cooperation, logistical support, allowing weapons transfers, financial and to medical services, but the weak political of Turkey is costing every life.
Turkey faces another issue of “open borders”, allowing fighters from all affiliation from Europe in the country. Some, such as the Vice President of the Republican People’s Party, even claimed that Turkey was supplying weapons and ammunitions to the Islamic State for years.
Despite efforts from the American led coalition in Syria and Iraq the Islamic State continues to grow. With more area under its control, an effort of Turkey and NATO remains an issue for security for both. Protecting the sovereignty of Turkey is a must, but policy leaders have to decide where Turkey’s loyalty lies.