US Special Forces join Turkish troops in al-Rai – WASHINGTON/ANKARA – Anadolu Agency

18 Sept 2016 – U.S. special forces are accompanying Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters along the Turkish border near Jarabulus and al-Rai in Syria, the Pentagon told Anadolu Agency on Sept. 16.The move came “at the request of the government of Turkey”, according to agency spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.

“U.S. personnel operating with Turkish forces and Syrian opposition forces will provide the same train, advise and assist support they have been providing to other local partners in Syria fighting ISIL,” Davis wrote in an email. The new development comes as the Free Syrian Army, backed by Turkish artillery earlier in the day, began to move toward Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stronghold al-Bab, nearly 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of al-Rai as a part of Operation Euphrates Shield.

Operation Euphrates Shield was launched Aug. 24 by Ankara and aims at improving security, supporting coalition forces and eliminating the terror threat along Turkey’s border using Free Syrian Army fighters backed by Turkish armor, artillery and jets. The Syrian town of al-Rai and Jarabulus city were recently cleared of ISIL militants as part of the operation. Davis said the U.S. would continue to support the counter-ISIL fight in northern Syria because “access to the Syria-Turkey border region is strategically important to ISIL’s operations in Syria and Iraq as well as the group’s attempts to export terror to Turkey, the wider region, Europe and the United States”.

“Denying ISIL access to this critical border cuts off critical supply routes in and out of Iraq and Syria and further isolates ISIL’s so-called ‘capital’ in Raqqa,” he added. Meanwhile, the Turkish General Staff released a statement about Operation Euphrates Shield, saying artillery had hit 26 ISIL targets. The statement also said an improvised explosive device hit Tatimus area of northern Syria, killing five Syrian opposition fighters and injuring six others.According to Turkey’s military, four air operations were conducted in the Kunaytirah, Tatimus, Caqqa and Baragidah areas, killing five ISIL militants.Operations in al-Rai continue with exploration, observation and target acquisition, the military added. The statement also confirmed that U.S. special operations forces accompanied Turkish troops in al-Rai.  September/17/2016