Fighting ISIL not a priority for Turkey: U.S. spy chief


Turkey does not place a high priority on fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and as a result foreign fighters are able to travel through the country into Syria, US intelligence chief James Clapper said on Feb. 26.

When asked, Clapper told senators he wasn’t optimistic Turkey would take a more active role in the war against the ISIL group.

“I think Turkey has other priorities and other interests,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Turkish government was more concerned with Kurdish opposition and the country’s economy, the director of national intelligence said.

“Public opinion polls show in Turkey they don’t see ISIL as a primary threat,” said Clapper, using an alternative acronym for the extremists.

The effect of Turkey’s approach was to allow a “permissive” climate for foreign recruits heading to Syria to take arms for the ISIL, he said.

“And of course, the consequence of that is a permissive environment… because of their laws and the ability of people to travel through Turkey en route to Syria,” Clapper said.

“So somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 percent of those foreign fighters find their way to Syria through Turkey.”

The spy chief said some other governments in the Middle East have been reluctant to join the US-led coalition against ISIL because of Washington’s reluctance to directly confront the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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