ANKARA, Turkey—U.S. drones and aircraft have begun arriving at a Turkish air base close to the border with Syria, and an “extensive” fight against ISIS extremists will soon begin, Turkey’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
Ending years of reluctance, Turkey last week carried out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and agreed to allow U.S. warplanes to use Incirlik Air Base for operations, taking a more front-line role in the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the extremists.
U.S. officials said the first armed drone missions out of Turkey began last weekend and that the military was planning to add manned aircraft flights from the country. Officials said that so far, none of the drones had launched airstrikes, but they may begin soon.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting in Kuala-Lumpur, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the battle would begin soon, but didn’t elaborate.
“As part of the agreement reached with the United States we have made great strides on the technicalities of Incirlik’s use and the U.S. aircraft have started to arrive,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted him as telling reporters. “Soon we will together start an extensive battle against Daesh.” He was using the Arabic acronym for the ISIS group.
The Turkish minister also told reporters that once the “effective” fight has begun, the ground would become safer for moderate opposition forces fighting ISIS.
His comments came following reports that members of the Free Syrian Army who went through a U.S. training program to fight ISIS extremists were captured by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front in Syria.