Spokesman says coalition forces are very close to blocking all outside access for region under militant control.
The Islamic State group in Syria is about to lose access to Turkey’s porous border, the Pentagon said on Thursday, a vital step in blocking foreign fighters from replenishing the jihadists’ thinning ranks.
According to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, I.S. now retains control of only about 25 kilometers of border with Turkey along an area to the east of the small Syrian town of Al-Rai. “This is the only area with which ISIL has free communication with the outside world, where it touches a border,” Davis said. “This is about to be closed. We are very close to achieving this.”
I.S. has lost ground in the key region as a result of Turkish operations that began last week. Working with “moderate” and “vetted” Syrian rebel groups, Turkish forces swept into northern Syria—assisted in part by U.S. air power—and quickly took control of the border town Jarabulus.
The Turkish forces then began sweeping west along the border area.
Turkey’s incursion into Syria has brought a new element to an already complex situation in the war-torn country, as Ankara has also targeted U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters.
The United States is working frantically to ensure fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia (YPG) are not further attacked by Turkey, and has encouraged them to move east of the Euphrates river and away from Jarabulus and another key city to the south, Manbij. “We have not seen any action [between the Turks and YPG] in probably three days,” Davis said.