U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter urged Turkey on Dec. 15 to do more to help destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), adding that Turkey's most significant contribution would be sealing its border with Syria.
Speaking to reporters while traveling to Turkey's İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana, Carter said Ankara needed to better control its border with Syria, particularly a 98-kilometer stretch believed to be used by ISIL for illicit trade and shuttling foreign fighters back and forth.
“Turkey has an enormous role to play” Carter said on Dec. 15, as he kicked off a tour of the Middle East that aims to drum up regional support for the military campaign. “We appreciate what they're doing. We want them to do more” Carter said on his first trip to İncirlik as defense secretary.
That includes Turkish forces joining “in the air and the ground as appropriate” Carter said. “The single most important contribution that their region makes necessary is the control of their own border.”
The İncirlik Air Base has grown more important in the U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes against ISIL, with 59 U.S., Turkish, Qatari and German aircraft conducting refueling, intelligence and strike missions now operating out of the base, up from about 15 from all coalition countries at the beginning of September, U.S. officials said.
On Dec. 14, speaking after a meeting of the U.S. National Security Council at the Pentagon, President Barack Obama said Carter's trip to the region aimed to secure greater military contributions from allies in the campaign against ISIL.