US, Turkey Soon to Sign Syrian Opposition Train-and-Equip Deal
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - The United States and Turkey reached a tentative agreement to train and equip the so-called moderate Syrian opposition fighters and expect to sign the pact soon, US and Turkish officials said with Ankara predicting a signing in days.
The US military has said it is planning to send more than 400 troops, including special operations forces, to train Syrian moderates at sites outside Syria as part of the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Three US officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the training could begin in mid-March.
The vetted Syrian fighters would be equipped with items including pickup trucks with mounted machine guns, radios and global positioning system trackers, the officials said.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the radios and GPS equipment would enable the fighters to call in airstrikes, but the officials told Reuters no authority had yet been granted for them to do so.
US officials have said they plan to train about 5,000 Syrian fighters a year for three years under the plan. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Turkey, have publicly offered to host training sites. Reuters reported in December that Jordan had also privately offered to host training.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed an agreement with Ankara in principle.
"As we have announced before, Turkey has agreed to be one of the regional hosts for the train-and-equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces. We expect to conclude and sign the agreement with Turkey soon," Psaki told reporters.
A deal between Ankara and Washington would be a positive development between the two longstanding allies, despite strains over Middle Eastern policy.