After months in which the Turkish government has received substantial criticism for not participating fully in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group, President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that his nation will contribute either “military or logistics” to the U.S.-led coalition currently conducting airstrikes in Syria against the group.
Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reports that Erdogan has promised a larger role for the Eurasian nation, according to Turkish media. “We will provide the necessary support for the operation. The support could be military or logistics,” he is quoted as saying, as well as claiming support of the United States’ airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria. Of the airstrikes–which are being conducted with the aid of five Arab countries, in addition to the United States–Erdogan said, “I look at it in a positive way. It would be wrong if it is stopped.”
Speaking at the United Nations Security Council, Erdogan attempted to deflect blame from his nation regarding the ease with which many Islamic State fighters have testified to illegally crossing the Turkish border into Syria to wage jihad. According to Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency, Erdogan argued that Turkey “has done a lot” to prevent the flow of jihadists out of Turkey and into Syria: “ISIL is a bloody terrorist organization and the Turkish government has taken all legal measures against this group from the very beginning.”
He did not specify what measures the Turkish government has taken to keep the terrorists from entering conflict areas, instead condemning Turkey’s neighboring countries for not keeping their borders sufficiently closed: “Today, the failure of the states neighboring to us with our southern borders has created a chaotic arena and a safe haven for the terror groups.” He added that “countries of origin” for many fighters had begun sharing intelligence with Turkey.
Erdogan’s assurances of support to the international community in the fight against the Islamic State may strike many skeptics as too little, too late, after the Turkish government denied use of its airspace to the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition currently fighting in Syria. For months, reports have been leaking out of the Turkish-Syrian border that Turkey had created a welcoming atmosphere for jihadists at the border.
In an interview translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, one Islamic State jihadist thanked Turkey for what he deemed “affection”: “Turkey paved the way for us. Had Turkey not shown such understanding for us, the Islamic State would not be in its current place.” In addition to providing easy access to Syria, many jihadists have taken to using the Turkish medical system to recover when wounded in battle. The release of 49 Turkish hostages who were in the hands of the Islamic State also raised questions as to whether the nation had paid ransom to the terrorist group.