Turkey should play a full part in the US-led air campaign against the Islamic State group and take better control of its border with Syria, the US defense secretary said Thursday.
Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said Turkey had agreed in principle to join the anti-IS coalition but should now add its own warplanes to the “air tasking order,” the military structure coordinating strikes.
“They need to join the ATO and they need to work more on controlling their border. And we’ve made that clear,” he told reporters.
“Their leadership has indicated that this needs to be done. It’s overdue, because it’s a year into the campaign, but they’re indicating some considerable effort now.”
Turkey agreed last month to step up its involvement in the war raging across its southern border in Syria and to allow US planes to launch strikes from a Turkish base.
But its involvement in the battle against the IS group has so far been limited and it appears to be concentrating on its recently revived war with Kurdish separatist militants.
Carter said the Islamic State group is still able to bring fighters and supplies over the Turkish border and into Syria.
“We need them also as a neighbor to this conflict zone, as a long-time NATO ally and a responsible member of the anti-ISIL coalition, to control the border,” he said.
“I don’t think they’re dragging their feet,” Carter said, adding that allowing US strikes to be launched from Turkish air fields was “important, but not enough.”