Turkey balks at going it alone on ground forces

Barack Obama’s strategy to have regional allies provide ground forces to fight ISIS has not gotten off to a good start. Despite having ISIS almost at its gates — literally — Turkey refused to put ground troops in Syria to fight the terrorist army. The Foreign Minister also rejected Obama’s strategy of air strikes alone, saying that ISIS could not be defeated that way:

Turkey’s foreign minister insisted Thursday that it is not “realistic” for the world to expect it alone to launch a ground operation against ISIS, even as a monitoring group said the extremists had seized a chunk of a key battleground town near its border.

Speaking alongside the visiting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Mevlut Cavusoglu also contended that airstrikes alone would not solve the problem, saying that they cannot change the balance of power or “clean the whole region of ISIS and other terrorists.”

The remarks will dismay many in Turkey who have demanded military intervention in Syria.

Turkey has taken in more than 1.5 million people from Syria and Iraq, Cavusoglu said, including some 200,000 Syrians from the Kobani region in recent days.

They don’t have much time to act before it’s too late for Kobani:

Turkey might be willing to send in ground troops — if the West acts to depose Bashar al-Assad:

Turkey is prepared to send ground forces to help eradicate the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Syria if it gets international assurances for its borders and the removal of the Syrian regime, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday.

In an exclusive interview with CNN International’s Christiane Amanpour, the prime minister said that without the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Syrian government posed as big a threat as that caused by ISIS.

“We are ready to do everything as long as there is a clear strategy that after ISIS we can be sure that our borders will be protected,” he said. “We don’t want the (Assad) regime on our border any more, pushing people against – towards Turkey.”

“If ISIS goes, another radical organization may come in as long as Assad stays in his seat,” he added.

Except that doesn’t sound all that great of an idea, either. The West tried that strategy in Libya, figuring that they couldn’t do worse than Moammar Qaddafi and that democracy would rise miraculously in a region known for recruitment to radical Islamist terror networks. Without any way to control the outcome on the ground, the militias eventually took over the whole country, and now the US and NATO have created another Somalia on the Mediterranean. Davutoglu’s prescription sounds like the hair of the dog.

Davutoglu is correct about the current strategy, though. Air strikes may have bought a little more time for Kobani, but without any troops to bolster its defenses, those airstrikes are only delaying the inevitable. If Obama really wants to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, he’ll need to convince the Turks and other regional players to get on the ground, or he’ll have to send American troops to do it.