Turkey broaden’s campaign against Islamic State as it calls for new elections

August 24, 2015

In a video released on August 18, 2015, the self-described Islamic State (IS) threatened Turkey as it called for the “conquest of Istanbul.”

It has taken almost ten months, but Turkey and the allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have agreed to cooperate in fighting the Islamic State. The agreement is to clear insurgents out of an area 98 kilometers by 45 kilometers between two Syrian towns seen as essential to the war effort.

NATO airstrikes are being launched from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. US Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, announced that NATO can get from Incirlik to the combat area in roughly 20 minutes.  This close proximity has allowed the coalition to increase the number and effectiveness of airstrikes against the Islamic State.

Two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, fly over Europe on March 20, 2015. The aircraft were participating in a flying training deployment with the Estonian air force and also participating in additional, unrelated training with the Finnish and Swedish air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christine Griffiths)

Coalition forces are also permitted to use three other Turkish bases Batman, Diyarbakir, and Malatya.

The Islamic State has captured large portions  of land in Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2014. Initially averse, Turkey joined the Coalition campaign against the Islamic State after an IS suicide bomber killed 33 people in a small town that sits on Turkey’s border with Syria, and then killed a Turkish military officer the next day.

Turkey faces new elections as it becomes more involved in the campaign against the Islamic State, and is grappling with a sharp increase in violence between Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebels. More than a hundred people (mostly police and soldiers) have been killed in Turkey since July in renewed conflict between the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and security forces.

The collapse of the 2 1/2-year-old peace process with the Kurds has had political consequences for Turkish politicians. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected Monday to formally call new elections for November 1st a day after the deadline passed for establishing a government following Turkey’s June election. President Erdogan is also expected to re-appoint Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to form an interim administration after Davutoglu’s last efforts to form a coalition alliance failed last week.

The Islamic-rooted ruling party, which Mr. Erdogan founded, lost its parliamentary majority in June for the first time since 2002. Erdogan is thought to favor new elections to give the ruling party the chance to win back its majority and rule alone.

The Turkish lira has dropped to record lows against the dollar amid the political and military uncertainty.

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