As ISIS Looms In Kobani, Turkey Will Train Syrian Rebels

Turkey says it will help train 2,000 moderate Syrian rebels in an attempt to boost the forces fighting both ISIS and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Posted at 10:22 PM, Oct 11, 2014

In spite of U.S. airstrikes and ground resistance from Syrian Kurds, the militant group ISIS seems poised to completely overrun the Syrian city of Kobani. And recent ISIS gains might be forcing a reluctant neighbor further into the fight against the terrorist group.

The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday Turkish officials have agreed to host the training of 2,000 Syrian moderate opposition fighters, in an attempt to strengthen the forces battling both ISIS militants and the troops of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It's a move that will likely please the coalition of countries allied against ISIS, and it's just the latest step Turkey's taken on its slow path towards fighting ISIS. The country's parliament approved a motion to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria last week, and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing for a buffer zone around Turkey to fend off ISIS militants near the country.

But Turkey's also been infuriating Turkish Kurds by preventing Kurdish reinforcements from crossing the border into Syria to help defend Kobani. The government estimates 37 people have been killed so far in clashes between protesters and Turkish forces.

Despite increasing pressure from the anti-ISIS coalition, fear of propping up Kurdish militants and reluctance to target an anti-Assad group have kept Turkey mostly on the sidelines of the fight against ISIS. 

But the potential consequences of Kobani's fall could outweigh those concerns; a Foreign Policy writer notes "the domestic fallout from the battle in Syria could derail the years-long effort to reconcile Turkey's Kurdish citizens with the state."

ISIS militants have advanced through the streets of Kobani, but Kurdish forces claim to still hold the heart of the city. The U.N. envoy to Syria has warned allowing ISIS to capture Kobani could lead to a civilian massacre of historic proportions.