Believe it or not, it’s actually happening: Turkey has truly launched an offensive against ISIS, the radical Islamist organization occupying large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
European newspapers report that Turkish tanks have crossed the Syrian border in an attempt to attack the jihadists in Jarablus, a town in northern Syria. At the same time, F16s are flying overhead to support the tanks. The Turkish offensive is supported by the United States and its allies in the anti-ISIS coalition.
The attack was ordered after Turkish artillery took aim at ISIS targets in northern Syria during the night local time. CNN and Reuters add that special forces are also part of the Turkish ground game.
CNN Türk is reporting live from Karkamis, a Turkish town on the border with Syria. Live footage shows smoke coming from several buildings in Jarablus, indicating that the Turks are serious about this offensive. ISIS responded to the assault by firing mortar shells at Turkey. At least nine shells landed in Karkamis while one landed in an empty field in the middle of nowhere.
According to Reuters, the goal of the operation is to “wipe out Islamic State militants along the border with Turkey.” A Turkish military source adds:
The aim of the operation is to ensure border security and Syria’s territorial integrity while supporting the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.
It’s the first time since November that Turkey has taken this kind of action against ISIS. It comes after a terrible terror attack carried out by ISIS in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. On Monday Turkey promised to “completely cleanse” the border of the terrorist organization. Apparently — and for a change — Ankara was actually serious about its intentions.
This certainly is good news for those of us who wish to see ISIS destroyed (and I assume that means everybody reading this article), but let’s not get overly excited just yet. American Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Turkey today. It’s not entirely unreasonable to suspect that Ankara will halt its operation against ISIS once he returns to the United States, making this little more than a PR offensive.
In any case, if Syrian rebels, the Turkish army and the United States succeed in taking Jarablus from ISIS, it’ll be an important step towards finally destroying the Islamist terrorist group. We now have to wait and see whether Turkey will follow through on this military opp.