Turkey Waves 100 ISIS Wannabes A Week Into Syria

Reuters/Murad Sezer

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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France’s Direction for Military Intelligence estimates 100 would-be fighters a week enter through Turkey into Syria to join the Islamic State.

The figure, reported by French outlet Le Figaro, raises important questions as to the nature of Turkey’s role in the U.S. Anti-ISIS coalition, especially in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt by elements of the Turkish military against Turkish President Recep Erdogan. Turkey lets the U.S. launch airstrikes on ISIS from Incrilik airbase near the Syrian border, but has long resisted U.S. efforts to curb foreign fighter flows into Syria.

The U.S. effort to curb foreign fighters into Syria deeply conflicts with Turkey’s national security interests. The only viable anti-ISIS fighting force near the Syrian-Turkish border is the Kurdish paramilitary group, YPG. The YPG is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey for its support of an independent Kurdish state inside Syria. The U.S. has supplied military support to the YPG, and is currently heavily relying on the group to assist in retaking ISIS’s last stronghold near the Turkish border, known as the Manbij pocket.

The recent coup attempt has handed Erdogan carte blanche to purge the highest echelons of Turkish society of nearly 50,000. Erdogan is using the recent coup attempt against him to consolidate all power in Turkish society around his leadership, even going so far as to call the attempt a “gift from god.”

The Institute for the Study of War noted in the days after the attempt, “Erdogan will likely deprioritize the fight against ISIS, undermining the counter-ISIS mission in Syria, as he focuses on consolidating power. He may even revoke past concessions to the U.S., including permission to use Turkey’s Incirlik airbase for counter-ISIS operations.”

The think tank further warned that Erdogan could go so far as to form a de-facto alliance with Al Qaeda or other extremist elements inside Syria, to align closer with his national security goals. The group elaborates, “Non-state militants can either supplement a Turkish military or serve as an interim partner while Erdogan rebuilds.”

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