This article was originally published here on NYTimes.com on Tuesday, October 14, 2014.
Turkey could still commit itself to becoming a more active member of the anti-ISIS coalition, though that seems unlikely. Last Friday, Ankara agreed to train members of the Free Syrian Army, and is still considering whether it will allow American and allied forces to use the Incirlik air base in the fight against the militant group. However, the permission to use this sprawling airfield close to the Syrian border may not be the breakthrough that U.S. officials have touted, revealing a continuing gap between Washington’s security needs and Turkey’s political dilemmas.
Even if Ankara agrees to open up Incirlik, an American military team will still need to negotiate over what type of air operations the United States and its allies can conduct from Turkish territory. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Turkey did not allow Incirlik’s use for airstrikes, only permitting the United States to conduct refueling missions from the base.
Although Turkey has a well-equipped military with sophisticated aircraft and tanks, it has its own security and political concerns that diverge from, and sometimes conflict with, U.S. goals. The Turkish armed forces recent airstrikes on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (P.K.K.) positions dispels any doubts about the Turkish military’s capabilities and Ankara’s priorities. Its clear that Ankara is more concerned about the threat of Kurdish nationalism than ISIS, especially when it comes to Kobani.
The airstrikes also likely mean the end of a fragile peace process between the P.K.K. and the Turkish government.
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