Ankara – Turkey officially revealed on Monday its plan to establish a military base in the Syrian city of al-Bab.
Turkish deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak told Hurriyet daily on the margins of his trip to Bosnia that the chief of staff is going ahead with work to set up the base at Tallet Jabal al-Sheikh Aqil, a strategic location west of al-Bab.
The Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkey, had liberated al-Bab from the ISIS militant group as part of the Euphrates Shield operation that ended in March. Tallet Jabal al-Sheikh had witnessed some of the fiercest fighting during attempts to seize control of al-Bab from ISIS.
Kaynak said that some 50 Turkish soldiers were killed in those battles, adding that around 8,000 soldiers were present at the peak of the Euphrates Shield operation. The number has now dropped to 1,500.
Furthermore, he revealed that Turkey, as part of its efforts to guarantee the security in the region, has started to train members of the local Syrian police.
On reports that Ankara is seeking to deploy forces in the “de-escalation zones” in Syria’s Idlib, Kaynak remarked that Ankara had received during the latest round of Astana talks a suggestion to send troops to the area to monitor the ceasefire.
“Such a step will help guarantee Turkish border security,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik announced that Ankara is “prepared to carry out a military operation outside of the country’s borders in order to protect its security and stability.”
The minister, who is accompanying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his trip to the United States, added that his country’s forces have the capabilities to carry out any military operation abroad.
“Ankara is determined to continue on combatting terrorist organizations that pose a threat to its security and stability. It is ready to help Turkey’s friends in the region against terror,” he stated.