WASHINGTON --- The U.S. military is setting up several observation posts in Syria beside the border with Turkey, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said.
The purpose of the OPs is to provide Turkey with military intelligence of any terrorist elements moving into Turkey from Syria, said Mattis, speaking at a Pentagon press briefing today.
The move comes following close consultation and collaboration with Turkey, both at the military and State Department levels, he added.
“Turkey, a NATO ally, has legitimate concerns about terrorist threats and from where they’re emanating,” Mattis said. “We don’t dismiss any of their concerns.”
The OPs will be manned by troops who are already operating in the area in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, he said. There will not be an increase in troop levels to accomplish this mission.
This is the second U.S.-Turkey military cooperation effort in as many weeks. The first involved combined military patrols in Syria.
Regarding the fight against ISIS, Mattis said that the terrorists have been compressed into small pockets.
Progress is being made but hard work remains because ISIS is using civilians as shields and coalition forces are committed to minimizing harm to the local populace.
Using innocent civilians in this manner is a long-standing ISIS tactic, he said, adding. they did it in Raqqa, Syria, and in Mosul, Iraq.