Turkish Forces Enter Al Bab, Islamic State Stronghold in Syria

  • Turkish forces are clearing jihadist fighters from city
  • Al Bab operation can lay groundwork for eventual Raqqa assault

Turkish forces have entered an Islamic State stronghold in northern Syria and have begun clearing it of jihadist militants, according to a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Although it’s still too early to declare the town of Al Bab entirely “secured,” the operation will lay the groundwork for an eventual assault on Raqqa, Islamic State’s declared capital in Syria, spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a televised interview with NTV on Wednesday.

Turkey, which launched operations in Al-Bab two months ago with allied Syrian rebel forces, has long proposed its own plans to capture Raqqa, but the Obama administration didn’t consider them, Kalin said.

During a phone call between Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump earlier Wednesday, the two sides agreed to study further cooperation against Islamic State in Syria, Kalin said. The issue will be discussed when CIA director Michael Pompeo meets Turkish spy chief Hakan Fidan later this week, he said.

The Turkish military launched a ground campaign in Syria in August to push Islamic State away from its border and to prevent Syrian Kurdish fighters from linking enclaves they control in the east and west.

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