Turkey Agrees to Train Syrian Opposition

Turkey Agrees to Train Syrian Opposition –

The Wall Street Journal – Turkey has agreed to allow the training of at least 2,000 Syrian opposition fighters on Turkish soil by American and Turkish special forces, Turkish officials said on Saturday, as Islamic State militants came closer to capturing the Syrian city of Kobani.

Turkey has long balked at allowing such training on its territory, and officials in both countries said the shift could lend an important boost to the Pentagon-led mission. The training aims to strengthen moderate forces arrayed against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a growing regional threat from Islamic State extremists.

U.S. officials said on Friday that Turkey had agreed to support a new Pentagon-led arming and training program for moderate Syrian rebels, but provided few details. Earlier in the week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated his support for trainingand equipping rebels to back U.S.-led airstrikes with ground operations.

“We have an agreement on this, with operational details to be worked out through ongoing consultations and planning,” a senior Obama administration official said.

On Saturday, a Turkish official said the country’s MIT intelligence service will use its own databases to select and screen an initial 2,000 fighters to undergo training in Turkey.

Fighters would be trained in groups of 400, the official added.

Saudi Arabia had already agreed to allow its territory to be used in the new training program, which would take place alongside an existing covert Central Intelligence Agency arming and training mission.

The stepped-up training comes amid growing chaos in Syria and Iraq as a result of Syria’s three-year-old civil war and the incursion of Islamic State radicals into large stretches of the two countries since May.

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