Turkey will let US and coalition forces use its bases, including a key installation within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, American defense officials said yesterday. But progress in negotiations with Turkey—including Ankara's agreement to train several thousand Syrian moderate rebels—may not be enough to stop the massacre of civilians in Syria's border town of Kobani, where intense fighting continues. Speaking in Cairo, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the tenuous situation, saying the defense of Kobani does not define the international counterterrorism strategy. Islamic State militants have taken parts of Kobani, Kerry indicated, but not all of it. The United Nations has warned of mass casualties if the border town falls.
The Obama administration had been pressing Ankara to play a larger role against the extremists, who have taken control of large swaths of Syria and Iraq, including territory on Turkey's border, and sent refugees fleeing into Turkey. US officials confirmed Saturday that Ankara had agreed to train Syrian moderate forces on Turkish soil. A Turkish government official said yesterday that Turkey put the number at 4,000 opposition fighters and said they would be screened by Turkish intelligence. Also yesterday, officials confirmed that Turkey agreed to let US and coalition fighter aircraft launch operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria from Turkish bases, including Incirlik Air Base in the south. The US is hoping for further Turkish cooperation; those discussions are continuing. (Read more Turkey stories.)