US, Turkey ink deal to train, arm Syrian rebels to fight IS militants

United States (US) and Turkey have signed an agreement to train and arm moderate Syrian opposition forces taking on Islamic State (IS) militants.

The deal was inked by Turkey’s foreign ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu and US ambassador to Ankara John Bass.

Key facts

  • Under the plan, the US will train about 5,000 Syrian fighters from the Free Syrian Army a year for three years. To train these fighters US is planning to send more than 400 troops.
  • This deal marks important  step for US President Barack Obama’s plan to turn moderate Syrian rebels into ground forces that will wage war on IS militants.
  • While, Western and Arab countries assist them by providing airstrikes to stop IS militants.
  • Saudi Arabia and Qatar also have agreed to host similar training programmes which will begin in March 2015.

Syrian army recaptures Morek from Al-Qaeda

The Syrian Army along with militias loyal to Assad has recaptured the central town of Morek. Morek was seized by the rebels and their Al-Qaeda allies nine months earlier.

The forces fighting for the Assad regime were also backed by heavy air raids that targeted the rebels.

Strategic importance of Morek

Morek is situated in the Hama province. It is located near the northwestern province of Idlib, most of which is held by moderate rebels who fought against ISIS. Morek is of strategic importance because it is on the main road that links Damascus to Aleppo. Large areas close to Aleppo have been under rebel control since 2012.

Australia and Canada join US-led military action against ISIS

Australia and Canada are the latest additions to the countries providing military support to the American led war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Australia has deployed its warplanes for air strikes in Iraq and will also send its special forces operatives on the ground. The Australian called the efforts ‘an essentially humanitarian mission’. Australia has been providing material to the effort even before it committed to military assistance.

Canada also announced the dispatch of its warplanes for conducting air strikes and surveillance missions in the region. It already has 26 troops in Iraq serving in a non-combative capacity

Participation of other countries

The US, France and UK have already been carrying out air strikes and other military operations in the Iraq-Syria region. Germany has sent arms and paratroopers to reinforce the fighters in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The Netherlands has sent its F-16 airplanes to supplement the other planes engaged in air strikes. Other European countries like Denmark, Czech Republic, Belgium etc are shipping arms and equipment to the region.

The countries which have promised to provide support or are expected to assist in the near future are Spain, Italy and New Zealand.