US & Turkey to deliver ‘lasting defeat’ to Daesh: Pentagon

US & Turkey to deliver ‘lasting defeat’ to Daesh: Pentagon

The United States and Turkey have agreed to increase joint efforts to deliver a “lasting defeat” to Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon has claimed.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, as well as Defense Minister Fikri Isik on Friday in the Turkish capital Ankara and held talks over the battle against the terrorist group.

“Both sides agreed to maintain frequent communication on the full range of mutual interests, including close coordination and continued transparency in the coalition effort to deal ISIL a lasting defeat,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement issued on Friday.

Cook said during talks with Turkish leaders, Carter reaffirmed American support for the strategic alliance between Washington and Ankara and vowed the United States would “continue to stand side-by-side with our NATO ally against shared threats.”

The Pentagon chief’s visit to Turkey comes amid escalating tensions between Ankara and Baghdad over Turkish military operations in northern Iraq.

Ankara claims it is training Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters battling Daesh, which currently controls swathes of land in Iraq.

Baghdad has repeatedly asked Turkey to withdraw its forces from the Bashiqa camp, describing Turkey’s military presence in Iraq as an infringement of its sovereignty.

Carter said he would stress the need to respect Iraq’s sovereignty during his visit to Turkey, which has been locked in a dispute with Baghdad over who should participate in the campaign to retake Mosul from ISIL.

“We’ve long had discussions with everyone about this – about respect for Iraqi sovereignty in the course of the conduct of the counter-ISIL campaign,” Carter told reporters on his plane traveling with him to Turkey.

A senior US military official said Washington was calling on both sides to “tamp down the rhetoric”.

“We have been talking behind the scenes to get the Iraqis and the Turks to come to an understanding on how to move forward on Mosul and on Turkish presence in Iraq,” said the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.

Currently there are about 5,200 US soldiers in Iraq. The US troops are allegedly providing air support, training and advice to the Iraqi military.

The United States and some its allies have been carrying out air strikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014 allegedly targeting Daesh terrorists.

US forces invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple long-time dictator Saddam Hussein but the large-scale military operation deteriorated security in the Arab country and gave birth to various militant groups like Daesh.

A massive military operation was launched by Iraqi forces earlier this week to drive out Daesh from the northern city of Mosul, their last stronghold in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Erdogan once again rejected Baghdad’s objections to the presence of its forces in northern Iraq, claiming Ankara seeks to prevent the Mosul battle from turning into a “sectarian one” and causing “blood and fire” in the Middle East.

Ankara maintains an estimated 2,000 troops in Iraq. Around 500 of the soldiers are deployed to the Bashiqa military camp in northern Iraq.

Carter said he also wants to talk to Turkish leaders about the ongoing effort to secure Turkey’s border with Syria. Turkey has increased military operations against Daesh in Syria.

Ankara has been angered by Washington’s support for Kurdish forces battling Daesh in Syria. Asked about Turkish air strikes that struck a group of Kurdish fighters allied to a US-backed militia in northern Syria, Carter said he was not certain about what precisely transpired.

There are dozens of US special operations forces in Syria, who are working closely with a collection of various militant groups that are trying to topple the country’s legitimate government.