Turkish Officials Say Deal on Cooperation in al-Bab, Raqqa
According to Turkish officials familiar with the conversation, President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone overnight and agreed on a plan for joint military operations against ISIS in Syria, with an eye toward faster progress in the fight.
Details are scant, but the deal is said to center on the cities of al-Bab and Raqqa. Turkey has been trying to invade al-Bab for over a month, and has taken so long that Syrian troops have approached the city from the other side, potentially leaving it in control of the Syrian government instead of Turkish troops.
Cooperation in Raqqa, the ISIS capital city, would be hugely more difficult, as the US has been cooperating with Kurdish YPG forces in trying to surround that city for months, and Turkish officials have absolutely and repeatedly ruled out working with the Kurds in any capacity.
President Trump is said to be increasing military aid for the Syrian Kurdish forces, and short of a major increase in US ground troops deployed, it’s hard to see where US and Turkish troops by themselves could readily take a large city like Raqqa.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo is said to be planning a visit to Turkey later this week to meet with officials as well, with the main topic of discussion expected to be exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose extradition Turkey continues to seek.
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