US, Turkey Plan to Wipe ISIS From 68-Mile Zone
Syrian rebels will reportedly assist from the ground
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2015 6:33 AM CDT
Turkish Air Force fighter jets taxi on the runway at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Friday, Aug. 30, 2013.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

(Newser) – Turkey's nascent fight against ISIS appears to be rapidly intensifying. The country has settled on the broad strokes of a plan with the US that would see the two countries come together to create an ISIS-free zone, with the US supplying warplanes and Turkey contributing troops who wouldn't actually enter the zone but may use long-range artillery from their side of the border. That zone would stretch along 68 miles of the Syria-Turkey border, reports the Washington Post; the Guardian notes the countries share a 500-mile-long border. Syrian sources suggest the zone could stretch 25 miles into Syria. An unnamed senior US official, one of four the New York Times spoke with, says the intention is to "support partners on the ground in northern Syria"—elsewhere referred to in the Times article as "relatively moderate Syrian insurgents"—who would seize the zone from the ground.

There are a few sticky points: Which Syrian rebels will participate? (The Times points out the US had as of earlier this month trained only 60 vetted Syrian fighters.) And how exactly will the respective players' goals sync up? For Turkey and Syria, taking out Bashar al-Assad has long been the chief priority, and both have desired the creation of a no-fly zone. The US says the zone will not be a no-fly one. And while the Post points out that the US has said its warplanes will focus only on ISIS, the plan "would also bring American planes in regular, close proximity to bases, aircraft, and air defenses operated by the Syrian government, and directly benefit opposition rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime."