Tuesday, September 23, 2014

U.S. Launches First Airstrikes In Syria

U.S. Launches First Airstrikes Against ISIS In Syria

The United States and partner nations launched their first airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria, as fighting raged Monday between the extremist group and Kurdish forces near the border with Turkey, triggering a surge of tens of thousands of refugees.

The Pentagon said a mix of fighter jets, bombers and Tomahawk missiles fired from ships in the region targeted the Islamic State group. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that because the military operation is ongoing, no details could be provided yet. He said the decision to strike was made early Monday by the military.

As the fighting in Syria has moved closer to Turkey, the government is facing increasing pressure to step up efforts to take on the Islamic State extremists.
Turkey is resisting because it fears that arming Kurdish men to fight the group could complicate peace talks with Turkish insurgents within its own borders.
The Islamic State group’s offensive against the Syrian city of Kobani, a few miles from the border, has sent 130,000 refugees to seek safety in Turkey in the last few days. The conflict in Syria had already led to more than 1 million people flooding over the border in the past 3½ years.
But in addition to the refugee crisis, hundreds of Kurds in and around this city near the frontier have clashed with Turkish police, who fired tear gas and water cannons. The Kurds say Turkey is hampering their efforts to let them cross into Syria and help their brethren.
Syrian Kurdish fighters were crossing back and forth over the border, while other Syrian Kurds were seen selling livestock to raise money for weapons.
Not far away on the border, the black flag of the Islamic State could be seen flying in a captured Syrian village along with the smoke from mortar fire.
Spillover from the Syria poses a problem for Turkey. The only local fighters capable of resisting the Islamic State group are Syrian Kurds aligned with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

While joining the coalition, Turkey had declined to take part in combat, citing the Turkish hostages held by the Islamic State group in Mosul, Iraq. But even after the 46 Turks and three Iraqis were freed, Turkey has not changed its stance.
Turkish government officials have not revealed how they managed to secure the release of the captives. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied paying a ransom but has been vague on whether there was a prisoner swap.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington now expects Turkey to step up in the fight against the militants.

The U.S. is looking for major participation from nations in the region in the campaign to destroy the Islamic State group. President Barack Obama has pledged that no American troops will be involved in combat missions against the group, and the U.S. expects nations in the region to provide those.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday he remained hopeful that Turkey would participate in the coalition.
“We need Turkey, frankly,” he said during a visit to Croatia, because of its military capability, regional influence and political gravitas in the Muslim world.
Turkish authorities may have concerns that Turkey’s Kurds, bolstered by Western arms and emboldened by battlefield success, could harden their demands on the government in Ankara.
Beyond the political questions, the conflict is adding to a huge burden for Turkey. On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus warned that the number of Syrians crossing the border could rise further to “a refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands.”
“This is not a natural disaster. … What we are faced with is a manmade disaster,” Kurtulmus said of the surge of mostly women, children and the elderly that started late Thursday.

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